Thursday, February 8, 2018

First Love

Happy Valentine's Day!!! Today, we are going to talk about our First Love. You know, the love that gives you butterflies and that head in the clouds kind of high. It’s a love that aims to please, protect, praise and respect. It’s fun, new and exciting. You can’t seem to spend enough time together. You’re constantly learning each other and listening to each other. You could listen to him talk for hours…or in my case, play his guitar for hours. You’re so in love and you don’t care who knows it! But then life happens. Now the things you once found precious are the things that get under your skin. The sweet romantic strum of the guitar that used to put you to sleep at night is now the racket that wakes you from your nap. All the molehills have turned into mountains. The underwear on the floor or the trash that can’t seem to find its way 2 feet to the can now spark a rage of emotions capable of peeling the paint off the walls. Throw in a couple kids, a few job transitions, ministry dynamics, deaths and divorces and you’re kind of left numb and wondering which way is up. Maybe the husband is working too much or too little. Your post-partum depression has temporarily taken every ounce of your sanity, and your patience and grace have become non-existent. Anything that takes time away from you, albeit church, video games, music, etc quickly becomes “the other woman” and before you know it, your marriage has spiraled farther downhill than you ever thought possible. So you decide separation is the best solution because you’ve obviously got irreconcilable differences. Meanwhile, the thought of divorce is looming a bit too close for comfort. 

This was me and Jeremy in years 5-6 of our marriage. I began to ask the following questions: What happened? How did we get to this point? And how do we come back from it? But, it’s ironic because we can become the same way in our relationship with Jesus. It gets stagnant. Doubt creeps in and the passionate love we once had for Him seems to fade. We forget about the fire that used to burn so bright, and our moments spent daily in His presence, reading His word and fervently praying have now become constant battles for our time. New priorities have taken the throne and we don’t even know how we got there. Then we find ourselves asking the all too familiar questions: What happened? How did we get to this point? And how do we come back from it?

So we have to fix our relationship with God first and then we can work on the rest. Here’s what’s awesome. God’s Word can answer all of those questions with one simple solution. Go back to your first love, repent and do the things you did at first.

To the church in Ephesus…
Revelation 2:4-5a NIV “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

Revelation 2:4-5a AMP “But I have this charge against you, that you have left your first love, you have lost the depth of love that you first had for Me. So remember the heights from which you have fallen and repent. Change your inner self, your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior. Seek God’s will and do the works you did at first when you first knew Me…”

Notice I never said it was an “easy” solution. I said it was a “simple” solution. We’re gonna break this down practically, so let’s go back to my and Jeremy’s story. We decided to make one last ditch effort before we threw in the towel. We weren’t going to last through 6-12 months of counseling sessions once a week, so we opted for a marriage intensive. This 3-4 day intensive was supposed to be equivalent to a year of counseling. I wasn’t even sure that was possible, but I was willing to try. If you figure that in a 50 minute counseling session, the first few minutes are pleasantries; the next few minutes are spent recapping. You might get 20 minutes of actual beneath-the-surface conversation, and then the last several minutes are spent bandaging and wrapping up. With an intensive, once you’re in deep, you stay there for hours. It actually ended up being very productive and was a lot less wasted time. Basically, we were in a hotel room with a therapist for 8 hours straight. Every layer was peeled away and every hurt exposed on day one. It was excruciating. Then we had individual homework after that. Not fun. On day two, we started start addressing issues and repairing. This is where we learned about communication which was the single biggest crux of our relationship. By day three and four, we realized this is all an attempt to bring us back to our first love, the things we once did and the things we once said.

The principles we learned in that intensive saved and sustained our marriage. The things we paid a ton of money for, you now get for free. LOL. Here were our top two takeaways:
1.       Learn how to communicate
a.       Listen (Listen and repeat exercise)
b.      Remember your manners (Remote control exercise)
c.       This reintroduces respect into the equation
d.      Practice, practice, practice
2.       Go back to your first love
a.       Do the things you used to do…for us, that meant worshipping together, playing volleyball together and finding our common interests again.
b.      Make date nights a priority.

After getting back to our first love, we grew more in love than we had ever been. We developed the love we had into something that could stand the test of time and anything else life decided to throw at us and that’s been proven year after year. We’ve been together for over 20 years and married for 16 of those years. He is everything I want and everything I didn’t know I needed. But here’s a bonus… one of the other things I learned over the years was not to compare my relationship to others and definitely not to the Facebook version of other’s relationships. The perception of perfection is deception because no relationship is perfect. We should be proud to be authentic and be proud of the ups and downs in our marriages. I kind of view young love as a little tree, a sapling if you will. It’s young, immature, requires extra support to stand tall, and the roots don’t spread very deep yet. But eventually that sapling or that love will grow mightily. Strong winds allow for deeper roots and greater growth. And since healthy things grow, my goal is for a healthy marriage, not a perfect one…and it all goes back to our first love, the spark that started it all.

Whether it’s your relationship with Jesus or your relationship with your spouse, rekindle that flame. It’s not out yet. Remember, that some embers burn hotter than the flame. I love what this description of an ember from Wikipedia says, “An ember is a glowing, hot coal that remains after or precedes a fire. Embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as the fire which created them. They radiate a substantial amount of heat long after the fire has been extinguished and can rekindle a fire that is thought to be completely extinguished.” It reminds me of camping when I was a kid. We would start the fire the night before and let it burn out before going to sleep in the tent. Then we’d get up in the morning when it’s freezing cold and poke the embers covered in ash. You would blow on it and it lights up a bright orange. We’d grab some leaves and twigs to throw on it. And after several repetitions, you’d see a little flame and all that hard work paid off. I just remember being amazed at how that was even possible.

Never did I think I’d be relating that to love later in life, but it all starts with a little effort and a little time. Start by making time with each other a priority and that spark will eventually become visible again.

Let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the wisdom in your Word. Thank you for calling us back to our first love. God, ignite a greater passion in my heart and in the heart of these women. I want to know you deeper and know you more and I realize that only comes from spending time with you. I love you. In Jesus Name, Amen.