Emotions aren’t everything, but they are something.
Nothing says “I love you” like upholstering furniture together. Seriously though, this past weekend I spent 6 hours (precious Saturday hours) refinishing an old chair with my husband. I am not much of a leather person and I don’t prefer to work with nail guns, but I am a big fan of my husband. Thus, I intentionally chose to leave the laundry undone, to let the children run amuck in the house and to forsake the exercise and the errands that felt terribly urgent to spend extended time coming alongside him.
When we were first falling in love a decade ago, I did not care what we were doing, so long as we were together. We spent many a day working on projects or just simply being together for long, unbounded chunks of time. Then came one child and another and another; with each child came more love to our home, more responsibilities and tasks and less time.
Often in the midst of simply trying to keep our household running, I neglect to remember and rekindle the first love that caused this bustling household.
After a decade of doing family life together, it felt wonderful to be reminded of those first love feelings that choose to let other tasks and commitments go simply to be with the beloved.
The chair is completed, but the feelings of first love remain.
Much like marriage, a relationship with the Lord begins with profound stirrings of love. The initial season of walking with the Lord is marked by excitement and willingness to do or say anything for and with Him. Everything is different because we are aware of His presence with us; mundane circumstances take on new meanings and purposes. We are smitten.
In the beautiful, poetic language of Hosea, the Lord speaks as a nostalgic lover to His people.
This is what the Lord says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land now sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his harvest.” Hosea 2:1-3
To be sure, warm fuzzy feelings are not the basis of any marriage, human or divine. The affections of first love are merely the spark that sets into flame the charcoals of commitment. To borrow a phrase from Eugene Peterson, walking with God for a lifetime will look like a long obedience in the same direction. Marriage to the Lord will not consistently be a blissful hike on the heights. We will weather our fair share of dips into valleys of deep dryness and will often finds ourselves plateauing on the plains of rote obedience.
That being said, our affections reveal our allegiances. God is a jealous lover, one who will not settle for a coexistence with the bride whom He died to secure.
The Lord speaks candidly about His marriage to His wayward bride in the book of Hosea. He speaks as a hurting husband who deeply desires His wife to love her as she once had.
“Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her…There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’..I will betroth you to me forever, I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.” Hosea 2:14, 15, 16, 19-20.
It’s not just the blatantly, overtly unfaithful Gomers who need to have their first loves for the Lord rekindled. In Revelation, the Lord speaks a similar word to the Church at Ephesus, who had been deeply faithful but had begun to forget their first love.
“I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance…You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:2-4.
Some seasons I am Gomer, who has willfully wandered and chased after lovers. Some seasons I am more like the Church at Ephesus, faithful but inadvertently growing cold in my affections to the One who was eternally faithful on my behalf. Either way, I am beyond thankful for a God who loves me enough to pursue me, to call out my cold affections and to pick me up and carry me back to the warmth of His undeserved grace.
Again, feelings aren’t everything in our walks with God and in our marriages; however, they are something. Our first lover only asks for a posture of wanting to want. Even the desire for desire for Him honors our heavenly lover.
May God ignite us anew with love for our first and most important lover; may we be postured as people who want to want Him more for a lifetime