A lot of people think they know what love is. They think if they meet someone at a coffee shop or at a bar and go on two or three dates that they are, perhaps, "in love."
Others think an updated Facebook status or an affectionate social media shout-out shows some kind of authentic love. Personally, I don't think so.
Let me tell you what I think real love looks like.
Several years ago I was on a mission trip in Jamaica and I was asked by the project coordinator if I wanted to make a special trek into the jungle to bring aid to some folks who were in distress. I agreed not really knowing what I was getting into.
So we hopped into a pickup and traveled into the middle of nowhere, way off some back Jamaican dirt road. After traveling a very long way, the project leader pulled over and showed me a small path that led into the jungle. He handed me a couple bags of groceries, and we headed out.
The brush on either side of us was way over our head, and we walked for a good 25 minutes before I started to wonder if we might actually be lost.
"How much farther?" I asked.
"Just a bit more," was the reply.
Five minutes later we arrived at a little shack in no-man's land. The project leader called in, and I heard a woman's faint voice reply.
There was an elderly couple living in this little run-down house. The husband had become blind, deaf and disabled -- so badly that his wife literally sat by him all day and night to take care of him. As such, she had no way to get help or, for that matter, even food.
"Real love" is when you love your spouse so much that you'd rather starve to death yourself than leave him or her frightened and alone.
This past weekend, I traveled back to Ohio where I saw my grandparents who have been married for 65 years this summer.
For years now, my grandfather has undergone dialysis three times a week and has slowly endured the degenerative effects of Parkinson's disease. He has been to the hospital more times than I can count, and we have been told over and over how he probably won't pull through, even though time and again he has miraculously managed to. I love my grandfather more than I can express, but truth be told the past few years have been emotionally exhausting.
Yet still, faithful and true, never wavering, stands my grandmother -- taking care of my bedridden grandfather's every need, feeding him, washing him, doing things for him that no person should ever have to do for a family member, forgoing sleep and personal care and sometimes even insult, living frequently in the hospital, trying to cry when he won't see.
It's not that she doesn't have help; it's simply that she wouldn't have it any other way.
He is hers and, as such, she would do anything for him.
The Bible tells us that God is love and tells how Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to die for us. I am not sure that fact seems to make sense for many of us.
But when I think of the woman in the jungle or my grandmother, suddenly a love like Jesus' love for us -- a real love -- seems to make a lot more sense to me.
I am grateful for these women who have shown me Jesus.
The Rev. Christopher Benek is the associate pastor of family ministries at Providence Presbyterian Church. Read his blog at www.christopherbenek.com.