I still remember what it was like when I first fell in love with Jesus.
To some people, I know that this kind of language is unfamiliar or uncomfortable, but it’s the language of Scripture, the language that His people have used for centuries to describe what is truly indescribable. Call it poetic imagery or allegory, if you like. But it’s the best way I know to describe my experience.
I was a teenager bound by fear. Terrorized by fear. Paralyzed by fear.
“Perfect love casts out fear…” 1 John 4:18
In my desperation I cried out to God.
“I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant. Their faces are never covered in shame.” Psalm 34:4-5
Even so, there was a lot of drama in those early years.
There were times when I would feel so loved and in love with Jesus – so enthralled by Him and so excited about what He was doing in my heart and life, and in the world around me.
And then I would experience times of pain and suffering and hardship. I’d cry out to Him in agony, in anger, in hurt and frustration. I wrestled with a lot of doubt, a lot of insecurity, and sometimes my old nemesis – fear.
I questioned whether He really loved me. I wanted to know why He let these things happen to me. If I didn’t get an answer – or didn’t get an answer I liked – I’d turn my back on Him. Let my heart wander.
Other times I’d just get bored or busy and distracted.
But even when I was unfaithful, even when I was faithless, He never gave up on me. He never stopped loving me. He never turned His back on me. He spoke tenderly to me and drew me back into His arms.
There I would rediscover all the reasons I loved Him, all the things I loved about Him, and I’d wonder – how could I possibly have forgotten? Then I’d love Him even more.
One of the blessings that comes with the passing of time is that now we have a history together, that deep bond, that special connection that comes from a lifetime of shared experience.
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
I don’t know how it happened or when, but suddenly I find I’m sure of Him. Or at least surer than I’ve ever been. I’m not questioning His love for me every five minutes, the way I did when I was younger. I know He loves me. I know that I know, in the deepest part of me.
At the same time, I’ve never been more full of awe and wonder:
“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
The more time I spend with Him, the longer I walk with Him, the more I learn to love Him, the bigger I find Him. There’s always so much more to learn, so much more to discover.
“I keep falling in love with Him, over and over and over and over again.”
These days there aren’t so many highs and lows in my spiritual life – though there are some. Overall, it’s a lot steadier, a lot more even-keeled. The puppy-love – the infatuation – has given way to something far more lasting and real. It’s stronger, richer, deeper. Sweeter.
“It gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by…”
When He speaks to my heart or draws me near, I don’t always experience a rush of emotion, a torrent of tears, or a heart-pounding sensation, like I did in the beginning. But that doesn’t bother me.
I’ve learned that the feelings come and go. When I have them, it’s wonderful. But when I don’t, it doesn’t mean His love for me has changed. It’s still there. It doesn’t necessarily mean my love for Him has changed.
And yet, I’ve learned that there are things I can do to fan the flames – to keep my love for Him burning bright.
Little things, simple things that anyone can do.
And yet so powerful.
Sometimes I do them naturally, spontaneously, eagerly, out of a heart overflowing with love and gratitude. Sometimes I do them deliberately and intentionally – because I know they’re good for me and because He deserves them. It’s how we maintain a strong, healthy relationship.
And sometimes I do them because I can tell I’ve been preoccupied or distracted lately, or I know I’ve been burying feelings of hurt or anger or resentment. My heart’s been getting restless or growing cold. I don’t want to go on living like this. I don’t want lose what we have. Our love is worth fighting for.
“I will bless the Lord at all times… His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1
So from time to time, I start my devotional time by making a list: “Ten Things I Love About You!” Then I read it to Him over and over during the week. If I’m feeling very inspired, I might turn it into a scrapbook page or collage or drawing of some kind. Even a Valentine.
Or I put some praise and worship music on, and sing it to Him with all my heart! Or I set my cell phone alerts to go off every hour throughout the day, to remind me to stop and pray — not to ask for anything, but to simply reaffirm my love and gratitude to Him.
Whatever I do, the key – the secret – is to take my eyes off myself and focus on Him.
Remember why I fell in love with Him all those years ago. (Because loving Him was a choice – my choice — nobody made me! And it still is.)
Count all the ways His love has won my heart.
All that He is, all that He has done.
In the process, I can’t help but be transfixed… transformed by His redeeming love.