So I’d asked myself, those twenty years ago [as my journal of that date reminds me], “If you were one of the churches of Revelation 2-3, which would you be?”
Which description did I recognize immediately as…
“Oh, that’s me! O, woe is me”?
The first one.
Ephesus. The exhausted, overburdened, yet persevering one, laboriously pressing on, getting all that growing mountain of stuff done, zealous for truth and righteousness and worthy accomplishments and good ole Yankee work ethics (before Yankees existed).
Yep, that was myself at that time in my life, for sure.
That might look noble, but it isn’t, not out of balance like that. Just take a gander at what it can lead to: “You’ve left your first love.” Wow.
Ongoing exhaustion, or sideline preoccupation, can do nasty things in one’s life, especially to relationships. It was killing the Ephesians’ relationship with the Lover of their souls!
Likewise with mine!
I’ve heard this verse, Revelation 2:4, misquoted often. So let’s get this straight (I emphasize to myself): It doesn’t say “ You have lost your first love.” It says “you have left” it!
Left, as in wandered away. Strayed off from. Drawn aside, then down the embankment!
I’d gotten sidetracked, long-term. I’d been trying, trying, to “do it all” and a little more besides, to be the perfect homestead wife and home school mom and Christian woman and helpful church person and house remodeling co-worker and… all the rest of it. And I knew my love for Christ wasn’t gleaming like it once had.
I don’t know that I recognized overwork and overemphasis on accomplishments as a crucial factor at the time. Merely cutting down on work(s) wouldn’t have solved the love problem anyhow. I just knew my experience of God was not what it had been.
But I didn’t know what to do about it.
So I kept asking God, in desperate cries, “What should I do? What should I do?”
Why wasn’t He answering? I felt hopelessly tangled in my quadruple-knotted life.
Actually, He was answering all along.
I don’t know how long it took me to look more closely at the convicting passage and see the simple three-part answer right there, in verse 5:
- “Remember from where you have fallen,”
- “Repent” (Do a U-ey)
- “And do the first works” (which several translation versions interpret as “do the things you did at first”).
Here’s where my journal of the time picked up, pondering these instructions, and looking back to the beginning of my life in Christ:
What did I do at first?
It’s interesting what I didn’t do: I didn’t go to church [I didn’t have one yet] (although I did go to Al Anon when I could, and knew some Christians there). I didn’t manage a rigid discipline of the externals of my life: time schedules, money-in-envelopes, rigid Bible study deadlines, etc. I didn’t have a formal “ministry,” nor was I involved in one.
What I gave, whether money, encouragement, intercessory prayer, or “a word from the Word,” sprang “spontaneously” from a motivation within me, there because of the presence of God—“the love of God shed abroad in [my] heart.”
What did I do that I don’t do now? Let’s see. I think I spent more private time in exclusive fellowship with God (Even [as a single parent] with a toddler, I found time). I kept a journal which recorded heart’s prayers, attempts at learning and following God’s way, and insights and promises from His word.
I looked to Him for strength and guidance—a lot. And I spent time in His word—not covering someone’s Bible study, but savoring the beauty of each gem of wisdom and truth I plucked from that vast treasure chest…
Something else I learned to do back then: praise God when things were going “wrong,” thank Him in and for everything.
So there you have it: Looking back showed the way back, and little by little, as I started making places for the “first deeds” again, love “came back,” too, shining lovely.