“Well, I guess you could say we are boyfriend and girlfriend now. But you need to know that if you ever get between me and my relationship with the Lord…it’s over.”
Not exactly Romeo and Juliet, right? But honestly, when Greg said this to me (in his usual matter-of-fact way) l couldn’t have been more relieved.
My relationship with Greg didn’t have a romantic start. We had been seeing each other regularly at Bible studies for a few months, going out after church with my sisters and friends for coffee. Then it took another step and he started to pick me up for church in his beat-up Corvair. I was fifteen, Greg was eighteen.
I liked him, he was cool. Always fun to be with. He was also the most ministry-focused person I’d ever met. And he made me laugh…a lot. But it was getting obvious that we were becoming more than just friends.
That summer, we went to a church camp at Idyllwild Pines in the mountains of Southern California. It was the 70’s and the Jesus movement was in full swing.
Back then, the way you “dated” was by going to Bible studies, hanging out singing songs, and spending endless hours in conversation. We lingered over coffee and sweet punch in the dining hall. I “liked” Greg and now I knew he liked me too. I don’t think we even held hands at this point, but there was no doubt I was falling in love.
We were driving down that winding mountain road when he made that statement and I appreciated how direct he was. I respected that he was so up-front in saying that God would always come first in his life. What a relief to know I wouldn’t be solely responsible for his heart and happiness! I’d never had a boyfriend like that and I liked being second.
Being second is good. If God doesn’t have first place in our life, we will always be on the search for something to fill it. No one will ever love us enough. Others will disappoint us. No one can always anticipate what we need. And until God has first place in our heart, nothing and no one will ever satisfy.
We come to marriage with a certain set of expectations don’t we? We have fears, desires, and needs. But until we look to the only One who can fill the God-shaped vacuum in our souls, we won’t be prepared to love and serve each other as we should.
So be second. Second place is perfect.
God has given us every good thing we have. Husbands. Children. Friendships. All good gifts. But never let your focus be on the gifts themselves. That is idolatry. And idols ultimately end up needing to be smashed.
Don’t seek to be first. Don’t put anyone first.
Greg, at 19, was wiser than his years. I have come to see the wisdom of putting everyone, including our spouses second.
“The most loving thing we can do for others is to love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best.” – John Piper
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27