When I first fell in love with my wife Ann, I was intoxicated. She was beautiful, blonde, with a hint of innocence that captivated me. She was the answer to all those daydreams I had as a teenager and gave up on later. The first four years were a honeymoon in spite of any setbacks in our circumstances. Then life set in. Thirty years later we’re discovering true love, but not the same love. This time around it’s deeper, richer, more weighty. We’ve gone through deep water together and come out the other side.
Our relationship with God can take a similar path. We find Him… or so we think, only to discover that He found us first! We are intoxicated. It’s called “first love” for good reason. I remember telling a young man who was leading a small men’s Bible study that even without the cross Jesus would be wonderful. He got that deer in the headlights look; I think he was so shocked he didn’t know what to say. The Holy Spirit can do that: it’s like a pusher giving away some drugs to get you hooked. Well, kind of like that.
Then life sets in. Busyness cuts into our time with Him. Kids, work, even church happens. He’s relegated to second, third, fourth place. Then of course we cease to feel the love. We shut off the Holy Spirit. We don’t feel the presence. Our Bible reading gets to be a chore. We no longer look forward to church eagerly like we once did. Maybe we even have times that we question if He’s real. I call this the lukewarm stage. You can call it a wilderness walk, or a desert period. Whatever you call it, it’s a sad experience. Being away from the lover of our soul is sad. All that time wasted.
Israel was enslaved in Egypt. We were enslaved to sin, unfit to receive our lover. Then Israel was delivered by God. We were delivered by the blood of Jesus to our freedom. Like Israel, we have a choice whether to be faithful to God, or wander in the desert before finding the promised land. But perhaps some wandering, some struggle is our preparation, our way to greater intimacy. Fortunately He is ever faithful to help us find our way back if our heart is soft. Like our vintage marriage, we need to die to ourselves to really taste that deeper, more weighty, more stable love. Now we’re really in love, and ready for our assignment: to infect those around us with that love. I believe the Bible calls it making disciples!