I think I actually thought the sky got bluer on the day I realised I was “in love” for the first time. I remember walking down my road into town one morning a few months into being sixteen and I was almost skipping.
It was like I was so much more aware of the world around me and how beautiful it was. The sky, the sun, the birds, it all seemed to be shouting “life is brilliant!”. The most profound impact this “in love” feeling had upon me however was to do with how I saw other people; every person who walked past me on the street in fact. I started noticing reasons why each person I came across was lovable. My teenage emotions were spilling over into seeing everyone else as someone to be loved. And despite the gushiness of all this, it did make me wonder how much God must love us, if me as a little hand-made human could feel this much for other people. Jesus must have crazy amounts of love for us!
Of course as you grow up you begin to experience the other side to the giddy in-love feelings; heart-ache and break-ups and reality-checks about that person you once saw as being pretty much “perfect” for you. You begin to recognise there’s no such thing as “the one” but there is such a thing as choice and commitment and sacrifice. The language of “first love” becomes a memory of a teenage infatuation and although the experience remains special, crystallised in the time and space of those sunshine days, what you learn about love and the long-haul goes much deeper.
In Revelation 2 v 4, John writes warnings to different churches who are experiencing persecution and he says to the church in Ephesus that although they’ve been doing a good job at working hard and not being misled by false people, in the process they’ve forgotten their first love. They’ve ended up missing the point of it all in the midst of their activities. He calls them to turn around and go back to their first love again.
It’s scary how many students we meet out and about on the #fusionroadtrip who have the story of growing up in church and following Jesus and yet as uni life takes over, the love for God they once had gets pushed down the priority list, falls off the Sunday plans and ends up disregarded somewhere in the corner of their student lives.
However, when they come into contact with the local church, it’s like something pulls on their heart-strings, jogs their memory and nudges them in the stomach. ‘Remember your first love?’ comes the whispered question. Even yesterday in Carmarthen I met a girl who is only in church community today because her housemate mentioned her faith and it reminded this girl of her first love, her friendship with Jesus that had been taking a back-seat until that point.
I don’t subscribe to likening our relationship with Jesus to that of a boyfriend/ girlfriend scenario at all. I also can’t even compare the deep, profound, unshakable love I have for Jesus to the fuzzy feelings of “the honeymoon period” of a relationship with another person. The love of God isn’t something we can feel and then it fades out. Knowing Jesus isn’t a temporary relationship that may or may not work as the shine of the in-love stage fades. But the call to remember our first love, the call to focus our attention, minds, emotions and whole life trajectory on the one who loved us first is still a vital challenge to us all.
We aren’t experiencing persecution like the churches in Revelation. But university has its own challenges, hurdles and modes of attack to take our eyes off Jesus and prioritise our lives with the status-quo. This Valentine’s day I invite each of us to remember our first love, think back to when you met Jesus or a moment when you encountered him and he got your full attention, and then live today as if that moment just happened. I wonder how you’d see the world if your focus was on how much God loves you and all those you meet. I wonder who you’d share your first love experience with if it was your priority again? I wonder if you’ll name-drop Jesus into chats about love that might happen today with your mates…
Happy Valentines day, a day to refocus on our first love.