Sometimes, every once in a while, I am reminded of when I first heard the voice of God clearly in my life. I remember my reaction to it both spiritually and practically. I was 15 years old and had been raised by a very loving liberal bohemian father and a wonderful mother who had always encouraged me to become a feminist, a socialist, and a radical unprejudiced person. They showed me other people’s lives that were not white or middle class and then how to examine what made them unique and to listen to their stories.
My father was an avid reader and writer. He would buy all the books on the Pulitzer Prize top ten lists and proceed to read them one by one. I could read, watch and say anything. He took me to see the poor and the prostitutes. It’s not a big surprise that both he and I ended up working in housing and with the homeless and that he also ended up rescuing abused women and getting them to safe houses as part of one of his jobs.
So when I made an adult commitment to be a Christian I of course absorbed all those life lessons and experiences into my faith. I cared deeply about the lost and lonely. I would go with Mike and feed the homeless, so it’s no surprise that we were called to go to some really tough and dangerous inner city places and bring life, light and hope.
In a moment of doubt, when I was resistant and fearful of taking our sweet innocent daughters to such places a good friend reminded me of Hebrews 10:32 “ Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering”
I was reminded of the early days in my walk with Christ and what I would endure to bring his light and life and hope. It reminded me of the first stirrings in my heart for the broken, ugly places and people, so in response to that first we decided to spend a large part of our UK life in imperfect urban landscapes.
I have noticed that as people begin to move towards middle age and have more time and space, they tend to think where they want to spend and invest the remaining years of their lives. I have found that many are returning to the places that God first stirred in their hearts, their first love. They again take up the call that they may have postponed because they were raising children or focusing on careers and embark back on an old path that they had left several years before.
I know firsthand that for those who have the courage and insight to do this it can bring renewed joy. I have known couples who met through overseas mission work who choose to return again and others who return to be short term medical missionaries in troubled countries. I have found this to be especially true for myself, we have returned to our first love. We again live in an environment with people who are not all perfect and beautiful. We sit closely with the marginalized and hurting and we see every day how much hope and faith is needed here. I am deep down happy and joyful that I have returned to my first love and I know that both my earthly father and my heavenly one are smiling.
What’s your first love? Can you hear the Fathers voice?