On Relationships, Words and First Love

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Recently, I read this in Jesus Calling, a devotional written by Sarah Young. "You cannot serve two masters. If I am truly Your Master, you will desire to please me above all others. If pleasing people is your goal, you will be enslaved to them. People can be harsh task masters when you give them this power over you. If I am the Master of your life, I will also be your first love." It is human nature to look for love and acceptance from other people. We desire a feeling of connectedness with those that we are close to. We desire to love and to be loved in return. The problem is that sometimes we exalt relationships with other people over our relationship with Christ. When this happens, we put ourselves in a compromising position. If we allow other people to become number one in our lives, we give them power over us. We become enslaved to their thoughts and opinions of us. We become reliant on their words spoken to us. This puts our feet on ground that is unsteady. It feels wonderful to be affirmed by someone you love. It feels great to receive encouragement and kind words from a loved one. It is awesome to feel valued by those we value. But what happens when what is spoken by our loved ones is not affirming? What happens when their words do not come across as encouraging and kind, but rather harsh and even mean? What happens when the words that are spoken do not make you feel valued or cared for? What then?

Even the people closest to us, will hurt us and let us down at times. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that it is scientific fact that we hurt the ones we love the most, those that are closest to us. When this happens, it is confusing and feels out of the blue, but it can happen for a myriad of reasons. I find that most of the time people lash out because the pain they feel is so great that it spills out affecting those close by. When this happens, we may feel deeply hurt and betrayed, but we cannot allow it to shake us. We need to learn that our affirmation and value does not come from other people. It comes from Christ alone. If we stand in a place of confidence in our identity in Christ, we will be able to look at the brokenness of others with eyes of compassion, even when we become a casualty of their pain. We will be able to stand firm, with a strong sense of who we are, whether the words spoken to us bring life or cause a sting.

In the devotional quoted above, the writer points out that Jesus wants to be our first love. When we think of first loves, we might think of puppy love, butterflies and high school sweethearts. But when Jesus says that he wants to be our first love, I believe that he wants to be our foundation of love. He wants His love to come first in our lives, but He also wants to be the first one to show us what love is and what it looks like. He wants to be the one who forms our thoughts and opinions of love. Life circumstances and events can teach us many false lessons about love as we get older. Life will whisper many lies in our ears of what love does and acts like. For me, somewhere along the way, life taught me that love depletes you, drains you, and that it leaves you giving everything, but receiving little in return. God has shown me that was never his intention or design for me. He desires to show me that His love fills, replenishes and gives life. In 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus paints a picture for us of what His love looks like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

I love this so much, because this not only tells us how Christ loves us, but it also tells us how we are to love others. This picture of true love painted for us by God Himself serves as a blueprint of how we are to love others in our lives. It is a baseline that can help us to identify what is acting as love in our lives and what is not and can help us to distinguish between healthy patterns of relationship versus unhealthy ones. Better yet, I love this because although we often see these versus quoted at weddings, this love is for the single person, as much as it is for the married couple. It is available to everyone and something that God wants us all to experience firsthand. When you have an encounter with this love, you walk away never the same. Your feet stand on steady ground. You become unshakeable.

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