My first love of the kind that you expect to hear from me was my boyfriend in my senior year of High School. I gave Terry my heart, and he loved me also. I suppose it could have been a romantic sweetheart tale, but we ended up going our separate ways.
The first love I want to tell you about, however, is of a different kind. I graduated from High School in 1965, in California. This was the Timothy Leary era, before LSD was even illegal, and I got caught up in the San Francisco experimental atmosphere; free drugs, free love, free happiness. After four years of various drugs and communal happenings I hit the bottom of the barrel and in my depression knew that something had to change. I was wondering where to turn to make a difference in my life, when some “cool” Christians visited our commune in the woods of Oregon. I was captivated. Not right away, but as we kept visiting them and hearing their story and what they had to say about God, I was won over. God entered my life and freed me from all drugs and cigarettes. Clean, complete break. This indeed was a first love of a magnitude I had not experienced before.
When I accepted Jesus as my Lord the change was drastic throughout my whole life. I was happy again. I felt free from my worries and burdens and confusion. Love infused me and I was happy with everything and everyone. There could be no wrong in the world.
My current boyfriend and I got married. My new husband wanted to go back to Cape Cod on the East coast, where he was from, to reconcile with his parents, so off we went, hitchhiking across the country. This was a honeymoon of love, not only between myhusband and me, but between me and my new-found God. All of our rides were with Christians, and we had a blast talking with each one of them. Once on Cape Cod, we were directed to a newly formed Christian community and soon came under the sway of the charismatic teachings of the two women who led it. Because I was so much in love, I was starry eyed and not thinking straight. I was also untrained in this new religion, having been raised as an atheist, and so couldn’t tell one brand of Christian teaching from another. I was ripe for training and exploitation, and that is what happened.
My first-love enthusiasm for the ideals of the religious life motivated me to endure much suffering, which was the emphasis of their teaching. They told married couples to not talk behind closed doors, so my husband and I rarely discussed our relationship or how to raise our children. As we grew more apart, I suppressed my concerns and endured. We were taught that any problems we had were our own fault, due to our sinful natures, so family counseling was not offered. I think my husband and I could certainly have worked out our marriage problems, but this group did not encourage that. To the contrary, they accused him of things he did not do in order to pressure him to leave, and they encouraged me to divorce him, saying I would be better off without him. I think his turning to alcohol was a problem they did not want to “bother” with, so they got rid of him. I was still a good worker-bee, so they kept me.
After many long years, I had to separate from this group also in order to save my own life, which was truly in danger of annihilation. I was becoming more and more depressed, and no longer had a love for anything, even the crafts and music I used to enjoy so much. My first love of God had been thoroughly crushed.
First loves are heady, all-encompassing experiences. They need wisdom which the young usually don’t have. I have learned a ton from the path my first love put me on, but I also regret the years wasted in an abusive and highly controlling community that deceived me. I am soaking in my freedom now, and exercising my ability to learn and discern, but I regret the many years of my life in which I fought against myself to conform to a way of life that I now have found out is aberrant, and not the gospel that Jesus taught. My beautiful first love of God was taken advantage of by power hungry people who thought they had a pipeline to God. Since all things work together for good, I am now rebuilding my first love into a mature and intelligent love. The pain of the years given to my first-love has taught me compassion, endurance, and a healthy dose of skepticism, which is helping me to find my way to a mature first-love. My regrests are being turned into thankfulness for what I have endured, for truly God will redeem my sufferings and I can now turn and extend a helping hand to others.
The truly exciting thing is that God never leaves us. It doesn’t matter how you define God, especially after you have suffered abuse. It takes time to sort things out. But that place deep inside of us, where in silence we listen for the voice of our true selves, that is where we meet God. I have just come back from an extraordinary retreat of quiet – no talking. I listened, and journaled, and talked once a day with a lovely lady who was full of compassion and the ability to hear my story and about my current journey with love and encouragement. I am continually amazed at what a privilege it is to be in the process of healing.
We are not left to bleed out with our wounds. We are survivors, we are strong, and we have access to the power of creation to help us on our path. And there are many wonderful people eager and ready to reach out a helping hand to us. I am grateful.