The good news is that loving Jesus above all doesn’t obliterate our love for those here on earth; it transforms it. Remember, “laying it down” is really laying our selves down. If we’re honest, we’ll probably admit that much of our love for others is about what we get out of the relationship. We love others, or are attracted to them, because they make us feel good, special, important, worth something. Obviously that’s not a bad thing. The problem occurs when we base our lives upon those feelings and rely on those around us to constantly replenish those feelings. And when those people or feelings fail us, we’re devastated in more ways than we’re even aware—because we’re now also feeling how far we’ve let ourselves drift from God.
No matter what our worth to others, we’re worth so much more to Jesus. Likewise, no matter what others are worth to us, Jesus should be worth so much more. As we learn to live out of that reality, we not only enter further into the presence of that infinitely greater love but are now able to truly share that love with those we love.
Yes, I’m talking very loftily here. It’s true, we seldom live in this place. But I fear that many of us have given up even trying to truly pursue Jesus’ love—that we have found even his “easy yoke” of obedience to Him too restraining. And the fact that we have given up is the principal reason why we settle for something—or in today’s case, someone—less than Jesus.
As one of my favorite songwriters, Bill Mallonee, puts it, “Love is just a plea / Deepest point of need / We take a reasonable facsimile, most of the time.” We desire to feel something, and Jesus just seems too far away. And so we unwittingly (or bitterly) turn away from the One who’s right next to us, who we’d see if we’d only truly desire Him long enough to see past the troubles we face today.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him…. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (James 1:12, 16-18, ESV)
So let’s start living as “firstfruits.” Let’s begin cultivating the deepest and most satisfying relationship we can ever have—our relationship with Jesus—and allow Him to transform our earthly relationships into what He desires. Let’s lay it all down, and move on to receiving His life and living that out day by day.
Lay It Down Today
Take a 15-minute mini-retreat right now, as soon as you’re able to do so.
For the first 10 minutes: Quietly reflect on the time you first drew close to Jesus. You can focus on either one specific moment or that general season of your life, but try to really reflect and recapture the sense of what that time in your life was like. Who was with you (or who were you close to, then)? Where were you? What were some of the sights, sounds, smells you associate with that time? What were you thinking and feeling? Replay all of it in your mind and heart.
Then: Take another five minutes to quietly reflect on where you are right now in your relationship with Jesus. Think also about where you are in comparison to those first days, and why. Finally, think about Jesus coming alongside you right now. What’s different from before? What’s better? And what do you miss from that first time you drew close to Jesus?
Close by thanking Jesus for the time you’ve spent with Him and how your relationship with Him has grown over the years. Also, if there are places where you feel you’ve “lost your first love,” ask Jesus to restore and rekindle your heart toward Him.