“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” – Revelation 2:4
“Darling, don’t ever forget to fall in love with God first.”
This is something I’ll tell my daughter some day.
When my husband and I took a road trip for our son’s second birthday, one of the conversations we fodder ourselves with was how to answer kids’, “How’d you and dad fall in love?”.
Though TJ and I had been dating and married for 9 years combined and I am now a mother of his two cherubs, that cheesy question was something we haven’t yet fancied talking about together. Well, mainly because none between us wants to admit who fell in love with whom first.
But that sunny day of road trip heart-to-heart, the trees, the rice fields, the landscape and the horizon out the car’s window, I knew exactly how we fell in love.
Although I grew up without a father and practically away from my mom, my childhood isn’t really as sad as it sounds. I know some people who grew up with both parents at home, but always felt lonely and alone. I, on the other hand, was blessed enough to have a mom who was able to carve it early in my young heart the fact that Jesus is in the void spaces that surrounded my life. She taught me that the Cross is the true nature of love-and its breathtaking cost.
I remember having a very personal relationship with God as a kid. I talk to Him, I cry to Him, I run to Him for the big and mundane– from fervent prayers to protect my mom working overseas, to prayers of bringing back a lost dog, down to taking a grape seed out of my tummy (which I feared would grow a grapevine out of my ears). Nobody knew about our sincere conversations.
It was He who taught me first about love. He cherished me growing up.
Then came the next chapters of my life when there’s much more provocation to turn away from the truth than to stand up for it. I battled through college and my young adult years, trying to balance my self-built strength and my vulnerability. But all those temptations I faced prove to be too much for the amount of Christianity that my broken roots had founded in me.
There, at the top of my college life, sat my young love, sweet love. It was the first time I fell in love.
The boy was sharp, charming, he’s got everything right on my checklist. And I thought smarts enough could save me from something as destructive as young love. But the absence of a father– the absence of someone in my childhood calling me “my little princess” — affected my ability to handle the emotional world of romance to fill my need for self-worth.
My constant dates with that young man replaced the constancy of God in my life. The years of relationship I had with him became my God. I didn’t see the futility of placing my hope and trust in a false idol. It wreaked havoc and displaced Jesus in my life. I clung to that companionship until the inevitable consequential suffering — my first taste of heartbreak.
It was a ticket to a concrete wilderness. I felt like God’s Israel cursed with forty years of wandering. I cried daily. I don’t even get off the couch to go to the grocery store for toilet paper. I turn down invitations to do things feeling like my company is a burden. I just wanted to lick my wounds in silence. It’s terribly embarrassing because when you’re that young, it felt like the whole universe is crushing. You don’t seem to have any control over how you perceive the world, or how you respond to it.
God’s love seemed to have grown so cold to a point where I met truth face-to-face, screaming: “You can’t really operate in this life without God’s love.”
At some point, all that’s left to do was to return to God and face Him. I managed to pry open my self-built wall. And lo and behold, there was God waiting for me to return. I looked at myself, assessed if I was worthy.
I was so muddy.. but I had no choice.
So I tried anyway. I swallowed my embarrassment, shame and helplessness, “Father, restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Psalms 51:12).
With arms wide open, God became my Prozac.
I rekindled my love for God, served Him faithfully and zealously. I restarted my life. I abandoned my religion and instead, built a higher level of relationship with Him.
Then one by one, God removed the scales from my eyes, and raised me from a spiritual death. He showed me how much He loves me. He made me remember how He filled all my needs since the day I was born. No one has or could ever love me like Him. He pursued me, fought for, and died for me. And He’s only asked me of one thing, to love Him and to have no other God beside Him.
The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ – Mark 12:29-30
God did not accidentally let that mistake slip into my life, like a reckless father. That furnace of isolation turned out to be God’s kiln for His clay. He knew the only way He could get me to listen to Him is to set me apart and put me in a season that seems like isolation, but it’s really an opportunity for me to hear Him.
The next chapter was amazing. I just sat and watched at how beautiful He turned my storms to glory. He paved the way for me and TJ to meet. He wasn’t the type I was looking for, we were opposite in so many ways, but he had the same story and thirst for the Father as I had. We started out as imperfect, broken Christians. But we grew together in God. He started surrounding the two of us with other believers and weeded out those who might derail us from His best.
God made us friends more than anything. The best dates we had were spent traveling the world and praying together. God made the man stick around for a long time.
TJ and I got married in December of 2012. As God walked me down the aisle of my wedding, I remembered His salvation and how he wrote our love story.
Four years later, we return to that memorial. I look back on how God recaptured me and delivered me unto the arms of someone who enables me to admire and worship the sweetness of His love and the freedom of His saving grace.
It feels good to be married to a man who worships God with me. It feels good to share a love story with someone who brings me back to that moment when I first met Jesus.
It feels good to be married to someone who always reminds me to come back to my first love, to the place and time in my life to where God was everything to me, when nothing else mattered.. only Jesus.
There will come a time when you will be blessed by a special earthly love. When it comes, it would be easy to forget our Heavenly Lover — the Lover of our soul. But fall in love with God first and I promise you, He will give you the right person that you deserve in the right time.
Give God your heart. Honor him. Spend time with Him. Date Him and always remember Him as your first love.