First love! Grade two. I could hold a book in my hand and read it cover to cover. By grade three, I had embraced a love of writing. My “roses are red” sonnet written to a fellow student was rejected and thrown away where my girlfriends found it. (Oh, the embarrassment!) In grade five, an overzealous suitor (a rejected one, I might add) leaned across the aisle and kissed me in class. I couldn’t rub hard enough to remove the stain/shame of it all.
At an early age, I also developed a lifelong love affair with drawing. My three loves: reading, writing, and drawing. With a blanket spread in the backyard and a book in my hand, I spent many a summer day reading, daydreaming, and painting cloud pictures in the sky.
Books consumed me, and I lived many lives vicariously through their pages. If I was upset and unable to sleep at night, I pulled a book off my mental shelf and read until lulled back into slumber. Throughout growing pains, baptism, work, marriage, and motherhood, books remained my friends. I had love for the Lord, family, and friends but never forgot the world of books that so consumed me.
Love! In love with love! It colored my reading as I devoured all the Zane Westerns in my great-uncle’s library, as well as historical and Christian novels — all with a thread of love intricately woven into the books’ warp and woof.
In a recent seminar, a woman confessed, “I had to quit reading. It so totally consumed my life that I found I wasn’t spending much time in God’s Word.” This brought me up short: I had fallen into the same trap.
My love affair with books was much like the paste jewelry worn by King George III and IV, along with other royals and high-ranking society members during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Paste jewelry was handcrafted, cut from leaded glass. The look of it was preferred to real gemstones that were harder to cut and fashion during that period. Paste is not considered a substitute for diamonds but is a sought-after product in its own right.
Looking back, I had unwittingly been “wearing” paste replicas of love, while the true treasure lay secure, locked in the Book on my bedside table — a Book I revered but seldom opened. I claimed the treasure of this love but seldom displayed it before others. I was no different from those who follow many paste versions of Christ’s teachings, manufactured over time, and prefer them to the truth. They are easier to follow, and folks “like the look of them.”
Was it through fear of rejection that I had kept that Love hidden, or did the paste version hold more appeal? My choice of reading material, though not inappropriate in and of itself, consumed so much of my time and thoughts that it left little time to dwell on the things of God. I’ve since made a conscious effort to cut back, to be more selective in my choice of reading materials, to spend more time in reflecting on God’s Word.
A lawyer tested Jesus asking what he should do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus turned the question back on him, the lawyer quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5. He said we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love our neighbors with the same intensity as we love ourselves. God demands and deserves first place in our lives — what I had failed to do.
I’m not alone. We as a people have forgotten to grow in the love of the Lord. We are afraid to do more than dabble our toes in its waters. We’ve stood on the fringe of life long enough, unable or unwilling to let go and place ourselves completely in God’s hands. We need to trust our lives to God, realizing that He is supreme, knows best, and will do His best on our behalf when we submit fully to Him.
Discipleship and desire
Discipleship and a desire to share this greatest of loves with a hurting world should naturally follow. We have God’s Word at our disposal, along with the assistance of pastors and teachers, Bible classes, seminars, and other helps. It behooves us to utilize them.
Discipleship then becomes . . .
- mothers and fathers nurturing their children and bringing them up to know and love the Lord;
- one-on-one sharing of God’s love with neighbors, close friends, and strangers we meet;
- sharing His love with immediate family members and other relatives; and
- standing for Christ in the strength of God’s love when no one else speaks out.
Jesus sent twelve disciples to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He promised that the Spirit would give them the words to speak should they be called to account by governors and kings. Taught by the Lord himself, the men had been ably equipped for service (Matthew 10:5-20). Yet one of them loved this world more than he loved the Lord. He was a thief who helped himself from the common purse and turned traitor. He had all the same advantages and training as the eleven, yet had failed to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Love! God’s love! Embrace it. Plunge in and become completely immersed in that Living Water filled with pure love from above.
Perhaps we feel ill equipped to handle unexpected comments or questions that may arise when we reach out to others. Perhaps we have missed opportunities and utilized the “I should have said” and “Why didn’t I?” remarks to chastise ourselves after each seeming failure. Perhaps we feel inadequate to vocalize the thoughts and meditations of our hearts.
Think of it like this. Do we push away and reject our Suitor in embarrassment or disinterest? Are we afraid others will discover our love letters to Him? Are we living a lie, as did Judas, more interested in the things of this world than in the Christ we claim to follow? Are our stocks and bonds and the rise and fall of the dollar and interest rates more consuming as books were to me, eclipsing the fate of those dying without Christ?
I didn’t realize in my earlier years that anything that supersedes our love for the Lord becomes an idol, unintentional though it may be. We are called to love Him above all and to let that love take us beyond the fringe of our feelings to the world.