By D. C. Randall
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 1 John 1:1 (ESV)
My first love. What do you think when you hear the phrase? It’s generally used to describe the first romantic experience and the first person with whom you’ve shared it. But what happens when you’ve never had one? We live in a culture that helps frame our relationship to this experience. And if you haven’t had “the first love experience” (or sustained romantic relationship, period, such as I), this may lead to feeling inadequate, incompetent, intimidated, and even embarrassed. But I’d say when you’re a believer, you’ve already had a first love. That is, if you’ll let Him be your first.
Over the last few years, I’ve grappled with this idea of romantic love and relationships. As I am to turn 30, I’m one of the few who hasn’t had a first love or a boyfriend so I don’t know what it feels like. I’ve heard and read quite a few sermons, articles, and general comments about what to do when love finds you: take a trip, exercise, etc. While all those are great suggestions, they don’t touch on the heart of the matter: what am I supposed to do with my inexperience especially when I’m about to enter into a culture and age group where I gather that most people have done what I’m lamenting over? How do you prepare to have a “significant other” when you’ve never had one or even been one? Then a thought came to me.
Over the last 7 or 8 months, I’ve realized how connecting to Christ is teaching me how to relate to others, even in romance. Now, I know that may sound quite strange (it does even to me!), but hear me out: When Christ is our center, our foundation, the first building block of our being, he becomes the standard for which we shape our lives. We have an image on which to base how we love. I’m learning that being in love doesn’t have to revolve around butterflies in my stomach, introducing a boyfriend to my family, or other romantic accoutrements. For me, it revolves around learning who God is, what His expectations are of our relationship, and how He wants to be treated. I also have to determine what kind of relationship I want to have with Him. Do I want Him when I need Him or when it’s convenient for me? What am I willing to do to maintain our relationship?
I’ve spent much of my teenage years and my twenties considering what I want out of a romantic relationship, without much regard for the idea the other person’s wants or needs. Relationships aren’t just about one person. Aren’t they supposed to be about a mutual agreement to honor and respect each other? Aren’t we supposed to hear each other out and contribute to positive progress of the other’s well-being? Past hurts, unwise decisions, or the garbled information that is cultural frame of reference can get in the way of that. Why don’t we look to our Father God to teach us how to love and be loved? It’s not too late to learn in His eyes.
There are going to be things I’ll have to give up for Him. After all, He did give up His only begotten Son. There will be times I will need to forgive when I don’t want to and am justified in it, but He forgave me when I didn’t deserve it. There will be times I will need to open my heart because He opened His arms wide on the cross. There will be times when He’ll want me to do something I don’t want to do, but he still drank the cup and was scourged for all of us. This is relationship, give and take, and a prescription for all of us no matter our relationship status. Besides, I’m learning things about relationships, parameters, and bullet-dodging others wished they had. I can’t help but give God glory for that, and even though I can’t prepare for every possible heartbreak and rejection (although I wish I could), I know God is equipping me to follow after His heart and teaching me how to treat him, while preparing me for a man’s love. So this is for those of us who are missing the first kiss or haven’t been somebody’s significant other: We don’t have to conform to society’s ideas about relationship experience or status because we have already have a FIRST LOVE.
We’re not so inexperienced after all.