As a young girl, I loved to be first. I always wanted to be selected to be first to lead the class to the cafeteria at lunchtime, the first out on the playground, the first one to reach the ice-cream man’s truck- the list goes on.
Being first was great until the day I got burned.
At the tender age of 6, I quickly learned a hard lesson--sometimes being first hurts.
You see, after a warm fall day of our neighbor burning leaves in their yard my best friend, Lynn and I decided to play “Indians.”
This game involved dancing around the “fire” chanting our version of war cries. Lynn decided to up the ante and suggested we go barefoot and “walk on fire.” (I know you can see where this is going.) My six-year-old self thought her idea was great, and of course, I just had to be first!
Yes, with that first tiny barefoot step the cool ashes gave way to hot smoldering REAL FIRE that seared the entire bottom of my foot! I never howled so loud or jumped around on one foot so well. I suffered for days and prominently learned going first isn’t always best.
Sadly, I believe many of us have learned this same lesson when it comes to love!
We’ve been hurt in the past, felt the sting of rejection or had good intentions come to bite us in the butt; experiences that have caused us to be fearful, hesitate or keep us frozen in place.
I’ve seen it first-hand in broken relationships- each party too fearful to be the first to reach out to the other- afraid of being rejected- afraid of being hurt all over again. Expectations that are set so high there is no room for success.
I’ve seen it in romantic relationships- the person spurned by an adulterous partner and afraid of getting involved in a new relationship. The fear of being cheated on and having their heart shattered again keeps them frozen and alone.
I’ve seen it in friendships- the mess-ups and let downs that leave you struggling with hurt feelings that you just don’t want to be the first one to reach out to resolve the misunderstanding.
And I've seen it in dealing with difficult people- you know the ones that irritate you, are different than you or just hard and unloveable.
We don’t want to be first because we might get hurt or the outcome might not be what we envisioned. It seems so much safer to wait for someone else to make the first move.
As Christians, we are called to be first simply because of God’s great love. “We love because He first loved us.” -1 John 4:19
Through Christ, God reached out and loved us first even when we weren’t worthy.
Pastor Rick Warren asked an intriguing question- “Why did God create us to live 60, 70, 80, 90 years on this suffering Earth, why not just create us and bring us directly to heaven? What’s the point of our life on Earth?”
The answer…. To Love!
God created us to love;
our very existence, purpose, mission on this Earth
is to learn to love God and love others.
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus himself clarified the greatest commandment: To love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Love God and love others.
When we allow fear to hold us back, we can't fulfill our very purpose.
The Bible teaches that “There is no fear in love. Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts. People have fear when they are afraid of being punished. The man who is afraid does not have perfect love.” ~ 1 John 4:18 (NLV)
God’s love for us is what gives us the ability to put fear aside and to reach out first in love to others. Even when we don't feel like it, even when extending love is hard, or the outcome uncertain!
Love is a choice, an action, and a decision. Love was never meant to be demoted to just an emotion. It is so much more than that!
When you fully embrace the magnitude of God’s love, the enormity of the sacrificial love that God has uniquely just for you- you can’t help but put fear aside and reach out first in love to others!
Once God's love is your motivation, and you understand your purpose you won't hesitate to be first and you aren't afraid of being burned; because no matter the outcome God is always on your side and always there reaching out to YOU first with His perfect love.
Father, thank you that you loved us first. Help us to learn to love you and appreciate your great love for us so that we may be able to easily put fear aside and allow your love to abundantly flow to others. Amen.
“Everything you do should be done in love.” ~1 Corinthians 16:14