I was ‘in love’ with Bev for four decades! Our love changed a great deal in that time. Like any couple we were, at first, infatuated. That stage is intense, more an obsession, isn’t it? The object of admiration fills our thoughts and triggers feelings of intense pleasure. For some, that is the definition of love so they go from relationship to relationship seeking a perpetual high. Like most couples, we realized that the person we married was not the princess or prince of whom we dreamed. She was an ordinary mortal who could disappoint and delight in equal measure as was I.
We made choices along the way to accept, to grow, to change, to adapt, but always to love in deeper ways! The foundations we laid in those years supported our relationship when sickness arrived uninvited and through those months when we understood that death was coming to take her away. It is hard to describe what emerged as we faced what we knew was the end; a love unlike any we had known before, one that was deep, sweet, even more intense than the infatuation of the early days. During those 4 decades times came when both of us wondered about the wisdom of our choice to marry. But, we put the covenant above the question, pressed through hard times, and found grace to the end.
The Scripture frequently adopts marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with God. The Church is His Bride. Words of love and devotion define our relationship with Christ. And, just like marriage between mortals, trials and temptations come that stress our relationship with Him. Jeremiah, inspired by the Spirit, spoke of the choice of the people of the Lord to wander from their covenant. “This is what the Lord says: “I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.” (Jeremiah 2:2, NLT) “Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,” says the Lord. “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (Jeremiah 2:11-13, NLT)
Those words about lost love stand as warning for you and for me, don’t they?
Will we trade the Glory of a living God for lesser things?
Will we, in a moment of disappointment or discouragement, give away the Living Water to look for refreshing in empty wells?
Our Christian experience, just like marriage, will not always be full of wonder and delight. For numerous reasons, seasons will come when we serve God because we choose to love Him, not necessarily because we feel like loving Him! Seductions will dance through our lives, too, offering us distraction, promising us a new thrill. Oh that we would seek God, wait on Him, learn of Him, and grow deeper in devotion to Him. He can be frustrating when His ways are hidden. Though He is holy and perfect, we can fail to see it when we are struggling with life. And, in those moments, we are vulnerable to wandering.
Jesus appeals to us, in these words first spoken to an ancient church in the city of Ephesus: “I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4-5, NIV) It is not always difficulty that separates us from loving Him. We find here an apathy born of familiarity and routine. These Christians had settled into a dutiful experience that they were allowing to deaden their delight! That remains a possibility for us, too. We can remain morally upright, keep up appearances of religious devotion, while gradually moving away from the Lord, forgetting what it means to really love Him. This disappoints our Husband Who longs for our real love, for us to keep Him as the True Love in our life.
God is not vengeful. Even if we, like those ancient Jews, wander from Him, He offers restoration. Jeremiah, after some harsh words about spiritual infidelity, speaks for God. “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.” (Jeremiah 3:22-23, NIV)
Our word from the Word was an answer commended by Jesus, when a young man asked the way to Eternal life. “He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” (Luke 10:27-28, The Message) Oh, may we see His love on the Cross, invite the fullness of the Spirit, and live in devotion that never wavers. Amen.
Oh love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee.
I give You back this life I owe
That in Your ocean depths its flow
May richer fuller be.
George Matheson- Public Domain