Last year I had the great joy of visiting the ancient city of Ephesus. This city where the Apostle Paul had walked was once steeped in magic and superstition, full of temples and statues of their gods. Yet there had existed in this city a flourishing and dynamic church. Fast forward approximately 40 years from the church’s beginnings, and we find the Apostle John in exile on the Isle of Patmos, not far from Ephesus. Here he received his Revelation of Jesus Christ, which included amongst others, a letter to the church at Ephesus. I encourage you to read this letter in Revelation 2:1-7. But in verse 4 Jesus says to the church in Ephesus, “You have left your first love.” Or as the NLT says, “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first.”
This once flourishing and vibrant Christian community in Ephesus that loved God first and foremost were not able to keep that flame of love burning bright in their own lives. Nor were they therefore able to pass that flame on to succeeding generations.
The challenge for us today is how do we as women living in this age, in this culture with all of our responsibilities keep our flame of love burning bright? How do we keep Jesus as our first love or keep our heart for God? And how do we pass that love on to our children?
I believe we do this, by cultivating a soft heart; one that is responsive to our God and open to His transformation. The fight to maintain a soft heart is one of the most important battles you will engage in every single day.
Any number of burdens, thoughts or encounters can harden our hearts and cause love to fade. We are going to look at just three of these battles:
Unforgiveness and bitterness create callouses on our hearts that harden them. Generally, it’s pretty obvious when we need to forgive someone; our hurt and pain can serve us as an identifier that forgiveness needs to be extended. But sometimes, it’s not so obvious, as little hurts build up and lodge in our hearts. Our husband forgetting special plans, a friend unfairly handling a situation between our children and family members refusing to help out at home are all examples of the little hurts that can creep up on us. How do we battle this?
When you identify resentment rising in your heart, or become aware of unforgiveness lodging there, we need to come before God and confess our unforgiveness. Ask Him to forgive you and extend that forgiveness to the people you need to. Pray for their good and keep forgiving. It is a battle! Fight for it and don’t allow unforgiveness to harden your heart.
Disappointments in life will happen. Life will not always unfold the way we would like it to. People will sometimes disappoint us, motherhood can disappoint us and homeschooling isn’t always as we expected. But when disappointment remains in our heart for too long, it takes root and hardens our hearts. How do we fight against prolonged disappointment hardening our hearts?
Firstly, we need to keep our expectations, dreams and ideals open to God. Allow Him to adjust and realign them with His plans and purposes. Secondly, we need to pray and trust in God’s capacity to redeem and restore our situation.
Fear will cause our heart to hide from God, just like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. When we are functioning in fear, we can become insecure, harsh, angry, critical, frustrated and immobilised. As mums, there are many opportunities for fear to raise its ugly head. Our children’s health, their safety, their development, their education and their futures can all leave us with heart palpitations as we yell at them to be careful and go do their schoolwork! Through fear, we lose love and grace. How do we fight to prevent fear from hardening our hearts?
Hand over the control of your situation to God and trust Him with the outcome. Repent, submit and trust. When fear strikes again, repent, submit and trust. Worship the Lord, speak His word over your situation and fight for the love of God to fill your heart. When overwhelm threatens you, or you are finding it hard to stand, find a Christian Community that will stand with you.
When Jesus declared to the Ephesian church, “You have lost your first love”, He was not just speaking to them to berate them, but to draw them closer. Jesus wants more. He wants our heart open wide completely surrendered to Him, so that we are able to fully participate in His life, in union with Him.
We are created in God’s image, yet we are all so different. Likewise, each of our relationships or union with the Lord will look different, as we reflect and relate to Him in unique ways. However, the outcome will be the same: loving Him first and foremost and the grace to love others.
How has God uniquely created you to relate to Him, to draw nearer to Him? Where do you sense the pleasure and delight of God? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the path to intimacy and be brave to follow where He leads you. Is it worship through song, or worshiping Him as you marvel at creation for example? What spurs you on to want to know Him more, to read His word and talk to Him? To draw nearer to Him?
Christ desires us to keep Him as our first love, so that we may have soft hearts open to fellowship and intimate relationship with Him. It is a heart worth fighting for. It is this heart for God, burning bright with His flame of love that we can pass onto our children, our family and our world that so desperately need to encounter Him.
We encourage mums in a geographical area to gather together and build relationship and support with each other. If you meet monthly you may find these reflective questions helpful to guide your discussion.
Feel free to share your thoughts here in the comment section
Brooke has lived a nomadic life married to Allen for 23 years. During this time they have been in full-time Christian ministry, serving in a faith ministry to the defence force, pastoring a church and currently with Allen serving as an Army Chaplain in the Australian Defence Force. They have four children; 20 year old twins (girl and boy), a 10 year old boy and a 7 year old girl. They have been homeschooling for 13 years across different states and territories of Australia, starting when the older children were in grade one. Moving every 2 to 4 years has meant Brooke has been given the wonderful opportunity to connect with the homeschool community in different parts of our country. She is looking forward to sharing a time of refreshment and encouragement at the conference as we lean into the Lord together.