My First Love - Part 2 of 4
Revelation 2:4-5 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. How many times could I say that I have forgotten my first love? Too many to count, that’s for sure. Through late high school and my first year of college, I found myself holding so tightly to the idea of marriage that it was hard to let go of. It had become what my heart longed for above all else.
My struggle to allow God to be in control of this area of my life was not easy. The thought of surrendering this to God seemed impossible. I was scared of not being in control. Because our hearts are so fragile, it is hard to let someone else have complete control. Can you imagine saying to your dad, “I trust you, and I will marry whoever you want, just let me know.” That's scary!! You just agreed to spend the rest of your life with whomever he picks for you! Eek! But that is exactly what we are asked to do with our Heavenly Father. We are asked to trust Him above our own understanding (Proverb 3:5-6). Although we know the Lord knows us inside and out (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16), He’s always been faithful (Psalm 89:8, 2 Tim 2:13), and He works everything out for our good (Romans 8:28), it is still hard to completely give up control. But just because it’s hard or scary, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it anyway.
You may not think of yourself as a "control -freak" in your love life, but you’d be surprised. Have you ever had an attitude of "keeping your eye out for the right one" or "waiting and watching" for the right one? Isn't that just a precaution we take to make sure God doesn't forget to reveal him to us as he passes by? If we completely surrender, how are we to be sure that God will tell us at the right time? If we stop looking for “the one,” how will we hear God’ s voice when He shows us? It’s easier to trust in what we understand about ourselves, our situation, and others around us than a God we cannot see. But He knows the part of us we haven’t seen yet. He sees our situation years down the road. He knows the deep secrets and strengths of the guys around us. This is why Proverbs 3:5 commands us to trust God with all of our heart and not to trust in our own understanding.
What does it mean to surrender our own understanding and to trust the Lord with all of our hearts? For me, that meant letting go of my mental list of requirements to be my husband. It wasn’t easy to do, in fact, it was rather scary. I went through each thing on my list and let go of my claim to it. This is how that time of prayer looked: “it's ok if he doesn’t love nature the way I do. It’s ok if he isn’t taller than me”. Each characteristic that I let go of left me with the fear that God really might not give that to me. After leaving my expectations for "my future husband" at the feet of Jesus, releasing my claim to them, I responded with, “it doesn't matter what I want anymore, I trust you Lord, not myself.” In giving up “my list” of requirements, I realized that I had no right to claim those things as mine in the first place. Who was I to say what I couldn’t live without?
While laying down the characteristics of “my future husband,” I furthermore had to lay down my expectations of what our story would look like. This meant how I would meet him, how we would start dating, how he would propose, etc. I used to day dream about how we would be best friends for a year or two, then he would ask me out and we would date for a year and then he would propose to me in this huge, extravagant way, we would be engaged for about a year, and then get married right after we graduated from college. Yes, I had thought through it that much. The final thing I longed to pray was, "LORD, if you don't even want me to have a husband, then that's ok. And if you do, then you decide who, bring him about whenever you want and however you want to. I don't care any more. All I want is you." That statement, "I don't care anymore" was a hard thing to finally be able to say truthfully, because, honestly, I did care a whole lot. I looked forward to meeting my husband, dating him, and marrying him a lot more than I looked forward to growing closer to and falling more in love with Jesus. However, being able to say, “I don’t care anymore” was the beginning of my freedom.
The relief of finally letting go was beautiful! I was kneeling before God with tightly closed fists in which I hold all my hopes and dreams of my husband. I long so deeply for these things to happen that I don't want to let go, and I fear that if I let go, I will never get them back and they will never happen, or something not as good will happen. Then, I look up into the eyes of My Father and the infinitely deep love, concern, joy, and hope that I see beckons me to release my grip. As I do, part of me desires to grasp for those dreams again, but the peace that comes from simply releasing them is wonderful. My attention is taken off of how tightly I had to hold my fists and what was there that needed me to hold it so tightly and for the first time in a long time, every ounce of me is focused on the Lord and the magnificence, wonder, beauty, and awe that I found in allowing myself to be filled by His abounding, unending, extravagant love for me.
If our attention is focused on anything else, then we cannot take in the fullness of the love of our Creator. It becomes much harder to truly appreciate a beautiful sunset if you are also watching TV, reading a book, and talking to someone. You will barely be able to know the glories that exist in the vibrant color changes, the patterns of the clouds, and the soft breeze that gently moves them. It is the same with our Lord and the love He has for us. If we are constantly looking and hoping for something greater, we are missing the very thing that will bring us the most joy. We can't enjoy Him while we are also waiting for the "man of our dreams" to sweep us off of our feet. This is why it is necessary to surrender it so that we might discover the depth of the love of Christ and truly become more passionate about Him. Something that I would suggest if you are trying to surrender this to Jesus is to make a list. Write down everything that you hope for in your spouse: what he’s like, how you will meet him, etc. Then, take some time to pray through each individual thing on the list and lay it in Gods hands. The definition of surrender is: to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; to give up or hand over. In this time, try to give up your claim to these things that you hope for. Realize that it doesn’t matter whether these dreams come true or not, nothing will ever be as great as the love that you will find in being completely satisfied in the love of your Creator. Ask the Lord to bring you to a place where you can say “It doesn’t matter any more,” and to be so satisfied with Him that anything else is naturally less desirable. And BELIEVE that He can do it! He is faithful to hear and answer our prayers.
It says in Matthew 7:7: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” Honestly, it is simply a matter of faith and trust that our God, the one in whom we trust in for our salvation, is good enough, sovereign enough, and trustworthy enough, to make all the decisions in this area of our life. But simply surrendering this is not enough…