Friday, February 14, 2020

"you've lost that lovin' feelin'..." Woe!

1964 was the year of the release of The Righteous Brothers' classic song. Its second wave of fame came when the film "Top Gun" debuted in 1986.

The smooth vocals and haunting lyrics of this familiar classic have rarely been topped. These guys knew how to hit an emotional chord and boy did they. From never closing eyes during a kiss to no tenderness in fingertips, we graduate to no welcome, to criticism, to the famous chorus's conclusion, "you've lost that lovin' feelin' whoa oh oh oh..." 

You know the song and I bet if you're like me it's stuck in your head now!

For just a moment, try to clear your mind and see if this makes sense, because it's something I've been stewing over for several weeks now and Valentine's Day 2020 seemed as good a time as any to put ink to paper.

When John the Apostle recorded the vision he had while exiled on an island prison (Patmos) that would be much like our Alcatraz, he was an old man. Confined there by the Roman government to shut him up because he wouldn't stop telling people about Jesus, this was their best way short of killing him to silence the man. But they didn't succeed did they? In fact, no one permanently succeeds at silencing God's intended message, but that's another blog.

John's vision is recorded in Revelation, that daunting last chapter of the Bible, and as he conveys God's message to the churches, he begins with the Ephesians noting many good things they have accomplished like: hard work, patient endurance, not bearing with evildoers, and intolerance of false teachers. But then he throws down a big ole gauntlet.

He reports that they were doing many things right but there was still something seriously wrong. 

                    They had abandoned their first love. 

Revelation 2: 1-7 records all of this and continues with a sober warning: Remember from where you have fallen, repent and do what you did at first or I will remove your light. (My paraphrase.)

When the women of our church were studying these passages I asked them who could remember the time they first realized they were in love if they were married. Many heads nodded but nobody spoke up to share their story so I proceeded to tell mine.

I met George in high school during our senior year. I had transferred to the school and was a new student and knew only a few people there, but it was an easy transition because so many classmates were genuinely kind and friendly. 

As it turns out, I only had one class with my future husband, first period Psychology and Sociology. The late bell rang at 7:30 and he typically rushed in after that, but he was a favorite of our teacher so it never seemed to get him into trouble. This did, however, place him in a position of unavoidable notice to the entire class and I was warned by a very wise classmate not to pay any attention to him because he had a "friend girl" and I wouldn't want to get off on the wrong foot by appearing to be interested in someone else's best guy.

So, I averted my eyes and my mind and paid him no attention except when he was hilarious and friendly and cute and attentive which was most of the time. Still, there was nothing to indicate that we would end up married someday at that point-- until this one particular day in February of 1977. 

My future husband came to a party that my parent's hosted on the invitation of the same friend who had warned me not to pay much attention to George. That night though, he asked me if I'd like to go with him on an after school date to the Southern Living Show at our local Merchandise Mart. As a student in the school's horticulture class, he had helped design and install one of their displays and wanted me to see it, so on February 25th, 1977, I hopped in his 1965 red fastback Mustang and off we went.

Everything was going along smashingly as the Brits might say until thump, thump, thud, we had a flat tire on one of the busiest streets in the city. Fortunately, we were able to pull into a parking lot and he changed the tire as I watched, feeling both sorry for him and amused by the way he took it all in stride.

Once inside the Mart, he called his mother from a pay telephone to tell her about the flat tire and that he would be getting home later than planned. I stood nearby and heard his side of the conversation. She must have asked, "Where are you and who are you with," to which he answered, "I'm at the Southern Living Show with the girl I'm gonna marry."  

I found him charming, funny, and bold, but of course we were not yet in love. We just had a mutual fondness, but I was most impressed by his commitment to Jesus. He had recently come to faith and was a serious Christ follower.

Fast forward to June of 1978 when he proposed marriage and then to May of 1979 when we walked the aisle and you get the picture... we were in love.

Many might argue that you have no idea what "love" really means at ages 19 and 20 and maybe that's true in theory, but we had Jesus at the center of our lives and marriage. We determined to go into this thing without any escape clause, which to this day I will confess is the greatest of super glues.

Looking back, I remember so many firsts and fantastics. But there were also lots of failures and folly. We were an inseparable, imperfect, in love, pair. We literally grew up together and can now look back on all sorts of lessons that life's rear view mirror perspective affords. So what does all this have to do with Revelation 2? I'm sure you've begun wondering so...

Over all these years (40 married, 43 together this month) there have been times when we have failed to love each other the way we should. And if I'm honest that's probably more true of me than of him which is a painful confession to make. So I've asked, when that has been true, what happened? How? Why?

Turns out, this most often happens subtly, almost imperceptibly. Life distracts, projects become priority. Work and children and meals to prepare and houses to clean and phone calls to return and schedules to keep and taxes to pay and cars to maintain and yards to mow and meetings to attend infinitum. Excuses, excuses, excuses. 

We abandon our first love before even realizing we've allowed the urgent to take precedence over the important.

And this brings me back to John's revelation. "You have abandoned the love you had at first," is the tragic result of failure to ensure that the main thing remains the main thing.

I'm so thankful for the grace my husband has given me and for the unequaled grace my Lord has granted. But it is relational suicide to overlook the mandate and priority of guarding, preserving, and protecting our first love. 

When a lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, this was our Lord's reply: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." (Matthew 22:37)

This is a crystal clear directive and no one is exempt. Failure to repent of the abandonment of first love is serious to God and should be to us. 

So here are the questions I'm asking myself for the purpose of accountability:

1. What robs my affection for God? 

Just as in the case of the "love robbers" in a marriage, these are not necessarily things that are evil, in fact, most are morally neutral, but they have to be put into their proper place in order for first love to be protected and preserved.

2.  What increases my affection for God?

Do those things. Stop making excuses, and as the ever inspiring Elisabeth Elliot said, "do the next thing."

If you've read this entire post to this point, I hope some of these random thoughts connect in a way that prompts you to ask yourself whether or not you're protecting and prioritizing your love for God and keeping it in first place.

My prayer for 2020 is perfect vision. His vision. I'm asking The Lord to help me see all of life through the lens of the eternal, to help me live in a way that honors the only one who has ever died for me, and to demonstrate genuine, devoted first love kind of love. By His grace alone.

Because He is worthy.

soli Deo gloria~

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