Why First Love for Jesus is Strategic

We sat there on the floor facing one another in wonder, just taking each other in, it all hitting us in waves, simultaneously. When he finally spoke, it was only to confirm what our hearts and eyes had already been communicating: “So this is what you look like. I’ve waited for you, prayed for you, wondered what you’d be like, and here you are.”

I don’t think I could pinpoint an exact moment of when I fell in love with Matt Candler, but I could spend hours describing the first days, weeks, and months of our relationship. The vulnerability,  lovesick-when-apart, openheartedness, and wonder are etched in full color and emotion in my memory like it was yesterday. The written words on pages, the endless hours of conversations, the laughter, the tears. He was everything I’d ever hoped for and everything I never knew I needed all in one.

I remember the overwhelming feeling of trying to catch him up—and him me—on 22 years of life, all the years we’d missed of each other’s lives prior. Separated by geography, we spent our driving hours  to meet each other—criss-crossing Missouri and Oklahoma—with a tape-recorder in hand, recounting all the old stories we could think of from our childhoods, our youth, our families, our pain and our joys—everything that had formed who we were. We wanted each other to know it all, to receive the whole package and the whole story. Newly in love, we wanted to know one another fully as we ran arm in arm into the future together.

What is first love? We know it intuitively, what it means and what it looks like, even if we’ve never tried to put it into words or never experienced it in a personal way. First love is notorious for its contagious joy and exuberance and its passionate, uninhibited nature. When love is new and freshly awakened, wonder and delight are abundant, desire is full, sacrifice and striving are foreign concepts, and full givenness, one-to-another, is the only conceivable way to live. Our first love for the Lord is no exception. 

There’s nothing in the world that can compare with the awakening of the human heart to the beauty and love of Christ—the arising passion in the wake of catching sight and being overcome by His great love for us. No other experience in all of life is equal to when the Lord comes and arrests our affections by His Spirit—winning them over to Himself—by giving us a taste of His kindness and a glimpse of His majesty (Rom. 5:5).

In these awakenings, He stirs us to peer into the vast mystery of His love for us, opening the eyes of our hearts to see the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). He awakens hunger through the tasting and draws us into a seeking by giving us a glimpse (1 Pet. 2:2,3). 

When the Lord stirs first love in us like this, we are never quite the same. When He rushes in to fill the innate inward ache of the human soul with the only fulfillment that can answer and satisfy, we are changed. He who has seen the Lord cannot un-see Him and he who has tasted cannot forget the sweetness. Something at the deepest level has taken place. An irrevocable exchange has transpired and we’ve been marked by Him forever.

He wins us to Himself here in ways that are far more strategic than we might have imagined. First love is not meant by the Lord to be just a fiery beginning that fades out with time; it is to be the first fire and catalyst of a love that only increases in its strength, passion, and devotion through all the seasons of our lives…until we see the Lord. 

And whenever there is a waning, a loss, a tempering of fervency, it is to again serve as the spark that ignites the fire once again.