Photo taken by Asher Ong Photography
“What do you find the greatest joy in?”
I paused, thinking about what puts a smile on my face, what keeps me going every day, and what gives me the most happiness.
“I suppose I find the greatest joy . . . in you,” I said softly.
This is the part of the love story where we smile at each other shyly, clasp our hands together, and wrap our arms around each other in love—blissful, romantic, head-in-the-clouds love.
This is the part of the story where it dawns upon us that we are living out The Love Story told and played out in every fable, song, book, and movie, sold to us with every sentence written and lyric sung and scene painted, over and over again until we’ve unknowingly bought into it a hundredfold over.
But this is also the part of our love story where it all goes wrong. Because the real Love Story is not meant to be this way, and the one we’re living out now is not meant to last.
I’ve been in a relationship with my fiancé, David, for two years now. And with every passing day, I fall a little deeper in love with him.
Yet there is always a danger of loving him so much that I come to love him more than my first and greatest Love: God. It is a very frightening thing to find myself crossing that line: when I choose to spend evenings out with him over a time of solitude with God, when my heart finds more pleasure in him than the Lord, when I am devoted to his needs and wants but not to knowing and obeying Him.
But why is it such a bad thing? What’s wrong with loving my future husband more than God?
It‘s dangerous. It lures me away from worshipping God to idolizing a mere man, full of foibles and flaws (Romans 1:25). Sometimes I find myself so in love with him that I forget that he is, after all, only human. And though he tries his best to love me rightly, he sometimes fails—and so do I. And that’s when we find ourselves disappointed, hurt, and upset with one another.
It’s sinful. It goes against God’s first commandment to us: that we do not have any other gods before God (Exodus 20:3). A god isn’t just a little wooden carving or altar in my house that I worship, but it’s what I elevate to the throne of my life, it’s whom I love, adore, and value more than anything and anyone else in this world.
And it’s grievous. It saddens God when I wander away from Him and into the arms of another lover—a good gift God Himself has given to me—but which I have twisted and abused in my selfishness. Being unfaithful to Him also hurts me in ways I can’t quite understand on an intellectual level, but which I experience on a deeper, instinctual level, when my spirit mourns along with the Holy Spirit.
Time and time again, I’ve been shown how loving him more than Him has consequences. But these consequences are meant to lead me to repentance and to discipline me for my own good (Hebrews 12:5-11). As my friend rightly puts it: “God isn’t going to give you someone just to watch them take the place that only He can.”
Loving my fiancé more than my Father has more often than not led to a mess of tangled hurts and alienating distance. Because when I elevate him to the status of my god, one whom I believe can meet all my needs and wants, to love and understand me unconditionally, and to be unwaveringly present with me in all circumstances—be it physical or emotional—I find that he falls short. It shouldn’t be a surprise, yet I can’t help but feel crestfallen, cheated almost. Because I believed a lie that I had told to myself.
Photo taken by Asher Ong Photography
How do we love our partner then, without idolizing him or her?
It was a bittersweet moment when the both of us confessed to one another that we found the greatest joy in each other’s arms. Bitter because we knew that our love could so easily stray into sinful and grievous idolatry if we were not careful; yet sweet, because we have found the one whom our soul loves and with whom we will join together in union (Song of Songs 3:4, Genesis 2:1-24).
It was a bittersweet reminder that this kind of romantic love, as with every other love, is but a shadow of the greatest Love that has and will ever be: one that was embodied on the cross through the Son of God, who took on our sins and died in our place.I’m learning that the only way for me to love David rightly, and for David to love me rightly, is for us to love God rightly (1 John 4:19). It means asking ourselves who God is to us; and if He is our God, then living a life of total worship to Him in response.
It means acknowledging Him as the King of our hearts, by prioritizing the growth of our relationship with our first Love, both individually and as a couple. Not just when we’re in church listening to sermons, or spending time with our families, but in every other private and intimate moment when we’re alone together too.
And just as how a Christ-centered relationship is based on the building blocks of commitment, interdependence and intimacy, so, too, our relationship with Christ should be based on commitment to Him, dependence on Him, and intimacy with Him. This means intentionally choosing to love God above each other, leaning upon Christ alone as our cornerstone, and drawing near to Him daily, in the everyday choices we make.
Since we came to the realization that we needed to put God first above each other, we’ve been including a portion of time to pray, give thanks, and meditate on His Word together when we meet on dates. We‘re also continuously cultivating the habit of praying for each other daily, asking for each other’s prayer requests, and encouraging each other with His Word.
At the end of the day, our love story is all about experiencing what the psalmist experienced when he wrote: “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you,” and that “in Your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:2, 11). It means prizing Him as my greatest treasure, and therefore enjoying Him as my greatest pleasure (Matthew 6:21). This is how we can, and are, making our love story right by His grace: by finding our greatest joy in Him alone, together.