“Just ask her.”   That’s what Jeff kept on saying, day after day.  It was 6th grade and the dance was coming up in a few weeks.  Jeff was going to go with this one girl.  I hadn’t gone out on a date yet, hadn’t even thought about it.  But I did kind of like Susan.   “We’ll all go,” Jeff said.  “It’ll be the four of us.”   So finally, I steeled myself and asked Susan.  I’m not sure who was more shocked.   Me, that I actually go it out.  Her, that I was actually asking her out on a date.  Or me again, when, after thinking about it for a day, she said yes.   To say I was nervous would be a colossal understatement.   But Jeff and his date would be there.  It’d be the four of us.  That is until Jeff told me the day before that he couldn’t go.   I don’t remember Jeff’s reason, just my complete dread.  In the school gym, hearing the situation, Susan made the wise suggestion that she talk with her friends and I talk with mine.  And with that agreement, we made it through the evening.

It wasn’t until 8th grade that I dared to toe the school dance waters again.  This time, with Kathy.   My fear wasn’t in asking her, it was more logistical.  We lived in a small town in New Jersey and because I was 13,  my dad was going to drive us.   I estimated that it would take us 10 minutes to drive from Kathy’s house to the middle school.   My anxiety centered on running out of things to talk about on the ride to the school, with my dad sitting up front.  So I brainstormed  a list of topics that we could talk about.   I was more prepared than Charlie Rose or Larry King — at least for 10 minutes of dialogue.   We picked up Kathy and were on our way.   Completely immersed in managing the conversation, I wasn’t paying attention to where we were.   But as I was nearing the end of my playlist, I started to wonder why we hadn’t yet arrived at the middle school.  I looked out the window and had no recognition of the neighborhood or landscape.   I asked my dad, who was a well-travelled pastor in this small town, where we were.   To my horror, my dad sheepishly replied that SOMEHOW SOME WAY we were lost.   And I was out of topics.  What should have been a 10 minute breezy trip turned into an agonizing 25 minute pilgrimmage.

So how about you?   Ever have a first date disaster or trial?

I’m able to reflect back on those early days from the wonderful comfort and joy of being married to a woman, Janet, who makes me the happiest man in the world.  (Although, our first dates had their own comedy and angst that will have to wait for another post — or perhaps not!) 

But here we are on Valentine’s Day and many are giving and/or receiving cards, perhaps flowers or chocolates.  Some spend this day remembering a love.  Others spend this day dreaming of a love.   It can be a day of jitters, excitement, joy, melancholy, regret or hope.

Whatever the situation of our personal lives, I like to stop on this day to think of a first love that we all can share.   It’s expressed in that love letter of 1 John, which reads  “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them . . .  We love because God first loved us”  (1John  4:16, 19).   God always makes the first move, and welcomes us, invites us to respond.

Here are some pluses of having God as your first love.

1.  You don’t have to worry about having enough to say or what to say.

2.  It’s something you can venture into on your own, but having God as your first love inevitably draws you into relationship with others.  Because we can’t experience this love without sharing it.    Or it might be others who make that first introduction for you.

3.  This is a love that will never let you go, no matter what.

Happy Valentine’s Day.