Think back to when you were first in love. You were completely devoted to that person. As you sat across the table from them you looked into their eyes hanging on every word they said. You laughed at every joke they told, whether it was funny or not. You touched their hand, and enjoyed the smell of their perfume or cologne. You wanted to know everything about them and to be fully known by them. Then, your smartphone buzzed. You quickly checked it to make sure it’s not an emergency. Then you think, maybe I better check what other calls and texts I’ve missed. All of a sudden, you’re no longer fully present. You’ve been pulled away from the person that you love and who is right in front of you to address what may be causing the buzzing on your phone.
When I was in seminary along with working 50+ hours a week, I was really stretched for time. After work, my wife and I would meet for a quick dinner before I would begin studying, but she could often tell my mind wasn’t on her. Even though I was sitting right in front of her, more than once she would tell me that I might be listening to her, but she knew I was thinking about all I had to do that evening. Definitely preoccupied.
Isn’t this how our relationship with God becomes at times? When he first drew us to him we couldn’t get enough of him or his word. We just wanted to be in his presence, to learn all that we could about him and be known by him. Prayer, reading the Bible, and our daily devotional time wasn’t looked at as a chore, but a joy. But then worldly cares pulled us away just like the buzzing of our smartphone. We became distracted from God, ignoring him for the tyranny of the urgent. We no longer give him the attention and affection that we once did.
We long for our initial love of Christ to return, when we were fully devoted to him and not preoccupied with anything else. We don’t want to hear Jesus state, as he did to the church at Ephesus: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first”.
Jesus stated in Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. John tells us in 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world”. Don’t we long for what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”.
How do we return to our first love? Just like human love, spending time together builds love and a desire for a closer relationship. To that end I would suggest turning your attention to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer and devotional reading. I find that it’s best for me to have a plan, so I would suggest setting aside a time for each of these disciplines, or perhaps a time to do all three.
There are many Bible reading plans available, or you could do as I do, read consecutively through the Bible, with a goal of reading at least one chapter each day. It’s important to have a time set aside for daily prayer, perhaps early in the morning when it is quiet and you won’t be distracted. Put the smartphone in another room so that you won’t be tempted when it starts buzzing. A third suggestion is to have a book of devotional readings or prayers to feed your soul. I’ve enjoyed Tim and Kathy Keller’s devotional books on the Psalms and Proverbs, and Scotty Smith’s two books of prayers. The Valley of Vision is also an excellent book of prayers.
By intentionally devoting yourself to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer and daily devotional readings, you will find yourself preoccupied on Christ, and returning to your first love.
What have you tended to do when you find yourself drifting from your first love?