Last year, I wrote an essay for a contest held by Real Simple magazine called “The Life Lessons Essay Contest.” The prompt for the contest was “When did you first understand the meaning of love?” In attempting to write a strategic entry that might actually win, I wrote about our 3 miscarriages. Though my essay has no mention of God, who is the truest form of and actual essence of love, I believe that the love I describe in this essay is ultimately modeled best in our God through the person of Jesus. Despite all our sin and flaws, He chooses to show us grace “just because.” It has nothing to do with what we’ve done or not done, it has everything to do with His character and grace.
Though I didn’t win, I enjoyed writing for this contest and thought I would share this essay with you all. Enjoy!
written by Kelly Needham
Two lines. I love those two lines. I hate those two lines. They have become welcomed friends and also hated enemies. I first saw them unexpectedly in the Fall of 2007, and then a second time with more anticipation in September of 2009. But it was the third time, around Thanksgiving 2009, which rocked me.
God wants to be first in our lives over all other relationships for many good reasons. Little did I know that I would revisit this issue in marriage.
When I was single I was either satisfied with God or wasn’t satisfied at all. I didn’t have a spouse or boyfriend to give me the love I was seeking outside of God. It forced me to seek God because He was the only one around. I didn’t have the option of receiving love from anyone but God. Many single people struggle to find their fulfillment in God instead longing for a spouse. Often we believe that when married, this struggle will be over- but this is a huge lie. If we already struggle with God being enough for us when we are single, then it gets worse when we are dating or married. Now there is someone to take His place, someone who can give us some kind of love when we aren’t receiving it from God. It has become dangerous because it’s EASIER for us to be ok without God (that’s a scary thought) because there is someone else’s love available for us to choose first.
This process of forsaking my idols of marriage and returning to my first love and learning to call God ’Husband’ instead of ’Master’ has powerfully changed my life. I am a more passionate follower of Jesus who is not burdened by the commands of the Bible, but ecstatic about them, and I have a healthier view of marriage and relationships.
The Lord changed me tremendously after I returned to Him in September 2005. The months following the surrender of my “love life” were some of the most freeing, exhilarating, and joyful times in my life! I fell more in love with Jesus than I ever have before and my relationship with Him deepened in new ways that I didn’t know were possible. Instead of always looking for my future husband, I began looking for God and waiting for Him to reveal more of Himself each day. I never really thought about whom I was going to marry again. I knew that God would show me what to do in every situation.
Say you have a bad habit of watching way too much TV. Maybe you spend 5 hours a day watching your favorite shows. You decide that you want to give up watching TV for a while because you spend so much time doing that. If you just quit watching TV, you’ll probably find yourself bored and wondering what to do with all your spare time. It might cause you to wonder what’s happening in your favorite show today and tempt you to turn your TV back on. Just quitting something is very hard to do. But if I you decide to spend your time on something else in its place, (read a novel, volunteer at a homeless shelter, serve in the nursery at church, help others with homework after school, or get a job) it becomes a lot easier because you have something else to focus on. Similarly, it is difficult to simply surrender something that has consumed so much of our time and thoughts and energy without replacing it with something else. If we have forsaken our Creator and Savior, our first love, then simply giving up what we put in His place is not enough. We need to give that thing up, and then return to our First Love.
Remember the analogy of David and Jessica walking on the beach? Let me ask you this? Do you think that David is interested in Jessica simply doing what pleases him because that’s what she’s supposed to do? Of course not! It would be better for her to do what pleases him because she loves him. No one wants to be in a relationship where their spouse is only there to serve them. In the same way, God is concerned about our motives for why we do what we do. Do we read the Word of God because we should or because we love God? Do we go to church or spend time in prayer because we should or because we love our Creator more than anything? If you only do these things because you “should,” then I would ask you to quit doing them now and beg that God would change your heart first and give you true love for Him. If you do what please God without love for Him, you are just like the Pharisees, and that is not a good thing.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
So now, what do we do about this condition that our hearts are in? First, we need to realize that just like the Church of Ephesus in Revelation, we have forgotten our first love: Jesus. We must repent: turn from that which has become our heart’s desire and return to the loving arms of our savior. The process is two-fold: surrendering what has taken God’s place and then returning to and falling in love with the person of God:our first love.
As it seems most Christian girls are I was waiting on God to bring me my husband, my perfect man. (Of course he wouldn’t be perfect, but just about perfect, at least for me.) A few prospective guys came in and out of my life through high school and college and as they came, I considered them and contemplated if this was the one that I was waiting for. It was usually the same story: I liked the guy, spent time analyzing whether or not he could be the one, had lots of phone conversations with him, and usually went on a few dates. At some point in the relationship (sometimes within a few weeks, sometimes within a few months) I would realize that he could not be the one I was waiting for and then ended the relationship. This cycle was dissatisfying, and disappointing.
Finally, in September of 2005, God revealed the error of my practice of waiting on Him to bring me my husband.