February 14, 2014

Through fun and engaging storytelling, Theo teaches children God’s word and how they ought to live in light of it.

First Love

Mike and Cathy Joens Wedding Day Picture

February is a very special month for me, for in February I met the first love of my life and the second love. On February 11, 1972, I was introduced to Jesus at the Marine Barracks in Naples, Italy. That day, almost forty-two years ago to the day of this blog post, I became a Christian. It was the most joyous relationship I have ever entered into.

From the moment I surrendered my life to Christ I couldn’t get enough of Him. I devoured the four Gospels, drank in the epistles, walked 

joyfully through the Book of Acts, sang through the Psalms, stood in wonder at the Book of Revelation. Jesus was my first and only love. Whenever the church doors were open for services I was there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I shared Christ with fellow Marines, many of whom became believers. Jesus consumed my every waking thought!

And then I met my second love.

In February, 1974, Cathy Correll was an incoming freshman at Bethany Bible College in the Santa Cruz mountains, arriving midyear for the Spring semester. When she introduced herself to me in the foyer of the women’s dorm (one of my favorite hangouts) I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. A willowy brunette with hair cascading down her back and big hazel brown eyes, she was beautiful! She still is, forty years later.

From that moment on we were inseparable. We ate meals together, we went on walks through the redwoods, went down to the beach in Carmel, we strolled along the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I couldn’t get enough of her. When we were apart at nights my heart ached for her. I’d stare at her photo every night before turning in. I’d wing off a few prayers, thanking God for His gift, then awaken in the morning anxious to see her again.

I was in love! 

What was interesting, sadly so, is that each day I was with Cathy the ardor that I’d once had for Jesus imperceptibly cooled. I was the old frog-in-the-kettle, but in reverse, going from hot to cold. I still did my morning devotions, I still prayed, I still went to church, but there had been a shift in my devotion. I was no longer single-minded. My affection was divided. Though I had once been like Mary, sitting at 

the feet of Jesus and hanging on His every word, I had gradually morphed into her sister Martha, who was distracted by many things (Luke 10:38-42). In my case, Cathy.

Cathy had become my first love.

Something strange happened then. The more I pursued Cathy the less she seemed to care. She seemed aloof, distant. I asked her to marry me but she wouldn’t commit. I was bummed! And confused. “What gives, Lord, isn’t this the right girl?”

In Jesus’ address to the church at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7), He commended the church for many things; most notably their hard work for the sake of Jesus’ name. They were a church that didn’t tolerate evil, and rooted out the false teachers in their midst. Pretty good appraisal, wouldn’t you say? But then He says this:

But I have this against you: You have departed from your first love! Therefore, remember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place – that is, if you do not repent.

Whoa! What’s this? Weren’t they working hard for Jesus? Weren’t they studying their Bibles? Weren’t they contending for the Faith? Surely this proved their first love, didn’t it?

Apparently not!

The Ephesian church had loved Jesus fervently in the early days. They gathered at the lecture hall of Tyrannus daily to hear the Apostle Paul teach about Jesus (Acts 19:9-10), so that in a short two year period all of the province of Asia had heard about Jesus!

Paul commended them for their faith, and for their love for the brothers (Eph 1:15). But in the decades following, something happened. Where there had once been a fervent love, a gap had widened between Jesus and them. Jesus hadn’t moved, they had! The ardor of their first love had cooled.

It’s easy to fall into the trap. If I just do more things for God––read the Bible more, do more activities in the church, witness to others––it will show that I love Him. Although these services are good and approved by the Lord, they must not substitute for our devotion to Him. Martha, busy with meal preparations, fell into the trap; Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet had chosen the good part.

How can we regain our first love?

Jesus told the church at Ephesus, “Repent, and do the works you did at the beginning.” In essence, go back, renew your vows, rekindle your love. Put Him first in everything you think, speak or do. If you love Him, pursue Him with your heart, mind and strength! Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

As much as I love Cathy, Jesus must be my first love. What is interesting is that the more I love Jesus, the more my love for Cathy grows. When the Holy Spirit revealed this to me forty years ago, I repented. That very day Cathy accepted my proposal for marriage!

Have you left your first love? If so, Jesus is calling you to repent, to put Him first in your life!

O God, help us to redo the deeds of faith and love that so characterized our early walk with you. Fill us anew with the Spirit of life and joy and zeal for Jesus and His kingdom. Help us to rekindle the love for Jesus that was preeminent in our souls, first in our thoughts, first in our words, first in our deeds!

So this Valentine’s Day, let’s all renew our vows to Jesus first, and then take our honeys out to dinner!

Michael Joens