“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4.19
This is one of the simplest, yet most profound truths of Christianity. The One who saves us is the One who loves and pursues us. God initiates a loving relationship with us, and we either reject or respond to His love.
I have been a Christian since childhood. But I can also tell you I spent the first thirty years not surrendering to God’s love. I have fought hard to do things my own way many times; I spent many of those years trying to relate to God primarily on a mental basis, because that is where I am most comfortable. I loved God and I developed a relationship with Him—but I spent most of that time being unwilling to allow God to pursue me. I cannot map out the reasons why; maybe it felt too intimate, or perhaps I didn’t like things I could not quantify, measure, and track.
As a result, I did not trust God for my future. I tried to control every decision and turn of events, and it was exhausting. I remember the moment I finally “let go” of trying to control everything. It was four years ago in a Sunday School class. As part of a discussion, I shared how content I was about many aspects of my life. Suddenly I realized that God had allowed me to have many of the opportunities I thought I really wanted up to that point in life. At that moment, I felt as though I had run out of reasons to not let go. Before I knew it I told the class “I think I am at a point where I am ready to say ‘Okay God, what’s next?’”
His response was clear. He seemed to say, “I am going to show you how much I love you.” I let Him love me with a deepness and intimacy I had never experienced. In a way, this process was very passive. Instead of trying to do more to show God I loved Him, I started surrendering the hard places in my heart. I started noticing the barriers I had created to obeying Him. I became much more aware of the moments in which I needed to make a simple decision to accept His love and obey, or engage in a hopeless “battle of the wills.”
My life has not been the same since. The past four years have been a whirlwind—I have changed jobs twice, moved twice, and recently I got married. Each time those changes have occurred they were unexpected and moved me to a place of trusting God on a much deeper level.
The most recent and challenging change has been getting married. I met my wife unexpectedly (which is a whole other story!), but I made the decision early that I was going to pursue her relentlessly. Since I had spent the past few years engaged in a process of trying to lose at a game of “tug of war” with God, I knew the same dynamics could be played out in our relationship. I had to put her first in order to pursue her, and I knew the tension of responding to someone else’s love.
Men, if you plan on pursuing a woman, let God thoroughly pursue you first. If you have engaged in a constant “battle of the wills” in every relationship prior to your marriage, how can you expect there to be any difference in marriage? When you allow God to thoroughly pursue you, you will struggle with trusting Him. It is critical to wrestle with this tension because it is the exact same tension the woman you pursue will feel. And you will not always “win.” You will need to initiate the relationship over and over again, and you will have a much better understanding of why your initiation is sometimes rejected. Usually the reason is fear, and you will do well to be able to sympathize with that fear.
Women, if you want a man to pursue you, you will want to be familiar with the tension of response. When God pursues you and softens your heart, you will look back and understand some of the reasons why it was difficult to respond. When you are pursued again by a man, you will be familiar with that fear and you will have a better understanding of why you resist him from time to time.
I am not providing anyone with the steps to getting married. The decision to surrender to God’s love can happen before or after marriage. But how will you consistently and sacrificially put someone else first in a relationship until you have experienced being on the receiving side of love? Take time to develop deep stores of love and faith to draw from in the next season of your relationships.
Rather than trying to rush to the next “high water” mark in life, career, or relationships, I urge you to take time to let God thoroughly pursue you. Let His love work in you in a deeper way to find out what barriers you have created. If you need forgiveness, healing, or a “breath of fresh air,” know that God will be faithful. Trust God’s timing and know that things may end up happening in an order and a pace that will surprise you over and over.
God loves you. Let Him pursue you.
Jason Isaacs is an educator, blogger, and newlywed husband. He lives in Reston, Virginia with his wife Jacque, and their dog Kinley. You can find him on Twitter at @jwisaacsUS.
Photo credit: Josh Rokman