When the flame flickers low

I have to confess that I am amazed when I hear someone who has been married for forty years say “I am as much in love with my wife now as I was when we first got married.”

I would relate more to “I love my wife more now than I did when we got married” because love does mature. To be ‘in love’ though is something else altogether. The words evoke memories of a heady hormonal euphoria when everything was new and utterly charming. But this fades as the relationship deepens over time and, whether good or bad, we tend to fall into a comfortable rhythm of life with our partners.

Something similar happens in our spiritual life, and this is not surprising because Christianity is also relationship based. We love the Lord and we love His people but it all seems a little routine and stale. We pray, we read the Bible, we attend church, and on occasions we speak to unsaved people about Jesus. Yet the flame that once burned so bright now seems to be flickering low.

When we are honest with ourselves we realize that we aren’t altogether satisfied with a stale yet comfortable relationship, either with our spouses or with the Lord. But what is to be done about it?

In the book of Revelation Jesus address seven local churches and to the Ephesians He writes, ‘You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’ (Rev 2:4-5) NIV. In this one succinct statement the Lord Jesus sets out what is needed to rekindle the flame of a relationship, either matrimonial or spiritual. Remember – Repent – Repeat.

CandleRemember when you first met Jesus as savior and lord? How did you feel? What engaged your attention? What was it about this relationship that intrigued and fascinated you? We need to remember so that we can appreciate the difference between then and now. Once we realize that what we have now falls short of what we had then, we repent. To repent means to change one’s mind and so we say, “I am sorry Lord. I want to be different. I want to return to the vitality of the relationship we once had.” But having remembered and repented, we still need to repeat.

Jesus said that we should do again the things we did at first. What do we need to repeat? What did we do when we first met Him? How did we behave? What took priority over our time and energy? I remember how I was as a new Christian. I couldn’t get enough of the Bible. I read it eagerly and studied it diligently because I knew that it was God’s Word to me. I was filled with wonder every time I learned something new about the nature and character of Jesus. I was determined to obey what it said and take seriously its guidance. Another thing that characterised those early years was deep desire to talk to other Christians about the scriptures, faith, and particularly about Jesus. I would sit them down at a table, get them a cup of coffee and then say “Now tell me, what does the Bible mean when it says….?”  And I was so totally engaged in my relationship with Jesus that it was natural for me to talk to unsaved people about Him. I didn’t Bible-bash or systematically evangelise, I simply witnessed, and chatted, and shared. Anyway, that’s how I remember it and I am sticking to my story.

So, if the flame is flickering low, then a way to fire it up again is to repeat the activities of the early years.

Read and study the Bible prayerfully and with expectation. Spend time with other Christians speaking about Jesus, not just about rugby or the economy. And witness to those who do not yet have a relationship with Him. Talk to them about Jesus as you would about your much loved life partner.

I know this is good advice when our spiritual flame is flickering low and I am pretty sure it also applies to other relationships, like marriage – Remember, Repent, and Repeat.

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