What is Love?



Love/Grace Part 2

What is love, really?

It’s a question that has been shoved down our throats and drilled into our brains until we are saturated, overflowing, nauseous with a classic case of “too much of a good thing.”

The cliche makes my head spin and my heart hurt because love, as we romanticize it and ponder it and desperately clutch at straws to find it, shows itself through imperfect people. Flawed routes. It seems it is impossible to catch it in its purest, most raw form. 

Because the love I’ve heard of must be seen or heard or felt to be known. Love demands action to be expressed. Love seems to find disgust in passivity, in still waters. It needs physicality and words and “feeling” to be verified. 

Yet love often goes unrequited, unattended, unacknowledged. It is forced. It is commercialized. It is subjected to extreme pressures and twisted and squeezed and spoon fed, sometimes from the greeting card aisle and sometimes from the pulpit. 

And every day you walk amidst a culture which screams at you what love must look like,  what love has looked like to 8 billion other hearts, love that must have instrumental music in the background and tears brimming in the eyes to be true. Love must move you, they say. Something must stir in your heart to push you to the altar call. Love is arms around shoulders and high feelings of guilt and exhilaration.

But what if you don’t feel? 

God forbid, what if you don’t feel?

You’re putting on a waiting list. 

You’re told it will click someday. 

You’re told that, at some magical moment God only knows, all the pieces will fall into place and you’ll finally feel like you belong. You, too, will have your cinematic climax. But until then, you are frozen in the void of angst and self-doubt, destined to wrestle with yourself until you, too, can produce tears and join the club. 

Can love not just exist? 

I like to think it can. 

I like to think it can, because otherwise, I’ve never really felt it. 

I like to think that love can be the force quietly sitting in the corner instead of the colors on the big screen. 

I like to think that love can be unspoken thank yous and meaningful glances instead of professions and confessions. 

I like to think that love can be the force written into our DNA, holding all of our molecules together, instead of butterflies in the stomach. 

And I like to think that love can be just existing with God instead of forcing yourself to squeeze emotion out of a book or a play or a sermon to rededicate your life on the spot. 

Because God is love, and we are the image of God, so our bodies in themselves are the image of love. Our fibers and heartstrings are held together out of pure love, the kind that does not do but rather just is. 

The breath tickling your lungs is drawn in, captivated, by love. The blood in your veins pulses, propelled by the energy of love. The freckles that dot your arms have captured the sun and trapped its warmth against your skin with love. 

So to those who, like me, have tried to feel and feel until it now seems like there’s nothing left to feel, ease your brain. Unclench your fists. Stop squeezing your eyes shut hoping to reach that moment of clarity. Please stop making yourself sick by turning to guilt and self-doubt and a tirade of negative thoughts, hoping to milk some sort of revelation out of what can only be toxic. 

Just exist.

And realize your existence IS love. Love in no words, no feelings. 

Because God is love. That force holding your skin to your bones and your heart to your chest? That’s Him. By default, you are literally made up of love. Pure, raw love. 

Love is not a journey, then, or a lifelong search. It’s acknowledging that you are you, and acknowledging that God is holding together the bits that are you, and acknowledging that this is very good. 

What moment could be more magical than this?


Aubrey Gilliam is a junior at Burton Adventist Academy, and Passion Project 2nd Place Winner in the Short Story Competition.