We thought we were different. There was something about the way he looked at me. The way that his eyes gleamed ignited a spark in my heart. Our hands collided as if every flaw synced perfectly. I imagined our future together, when we would tell our children and it would be the greatest love story ever told. We thought we were different. Our relationship was completely perfect from my knowledge of romance novels and chick flicks. The end was far beyond my sight or imagination. Still, the thing we thought would never happen, happened quickly and there was no mercy for my immature and vulnerable emotions. Having once devoted myself to God’s love, I had quickly and unknowingly fallen into the ultimate trap of distraction and temptation, in its adolescent counterfeit of teenage love. One night in particular, I laid in bed unable to shake the guilt that overpowered me. I had finally realized that I had broken an absolutely vital relationship off for a relationship that although, once seemed perfect was falling apart. I remembered countless times when God pounded on my heart until I silenced it with physical satisfaction and quick words of affirmation. I continually turned sharply away from the one relationship I needed. Now, it was all crumbling. I didn’t have God. I didn’t have my teenage love. Was there any love left for me? I didn’t blame God for the decisions I was making but I did feel frustration for the seemingly obvious realization that God wasn’t strong enough to pull me out of my sin. How could He allow my freewill to take me so deeply into the impossible crevasses of pride and guilt? Wasn’t He supposed to be more satisfying than that? How was I able to let go of His love? Wasn’t I supposed to be stronger than that? The sense of unworthiness ran deep. Guilt penetrated my soul. I was humiliated, ashamed, filthy, and undeserving of any compassion from the God I had rejected so many times. As most childish things do, my high school sweetheart and I ended. As life always does, days went on. As He always planned, God began to win back my heart. Finally broken enough, I eventually pushed back into the love of God and like the prodigal son, I was welcomed back with a greater love than expected or deserved. Filthy and undeserving of His grace, He forgot all my offenses. Since this moment in my life, the Lord has been teaching me so much about His incomparable jealousy for me. The often emotionless God I had created was far from emotionless. He desperately ached and yearned for my affection. I know I am not alone in this. As Christians, we often forget about our first love, or at least the intensity of it. For Valentine’s Day instead of getting annoyed with my bare relationship status, I am challenging myself to think back to the desire I had for Jesus when he first captured my heart- before my romantic ignorance. I am Christ’s bride. Why can’t I comprehend the price that Jesus was willing to pay for me? I have become numb to the story of the crucifixion. Proving his love, God endured suffering, feeling real and unimaginable pain. Any numbness felt is not His, but ours, in our inability to receive and respond to so much love. Who was the crucifixion for? It’s easy to say the usual response: for everyone, anybody, the sins of the world, all nations- humanity. Although I understand this to be humanity at large, the Lord is teaching me to understand that Jesus became man, came as a baby, submitted 30 years to the world He loved, and freely allowed himself to be slaughtered, without uttering any retaliation and willed all of this, not just for “humanity” in general, but specifically for me- Katrina, His bride. He died for me, with all my flaws, with my bad ideas, selfishness, self-doubt, and tendency to be easily led by evil. He loved me from the very start, despite my corrupt nature. He knew the way I would think in the moment with no realization of future consequences. He willed to sacrifice his life, to ransom mine, despite the future that I would have abandoning his love, failing to reflect his commitment in my selfishness. Knowing ahead of time my weakness, what agony! Yet, out of His magnificent He took a chance for me. To Him we are not a conglomerate mass of people. He is in love with us specifically. He would have done the same if there had been only one of us. I’ve made the mistake of consistently behaving as if God’s love is insufficient. And so, when finally, I allowed Him to enter my heart again and take control, how could I not be captivated by the tenderness of His love? How could I not give my heart to Him who had allowed His heart to be pierced for me? How could I have ever walked away from the greatest love that could exist? And how could I not consider it all rubbish, and be willing to leave everything behind, for love of Him? His love is greater than we can comprehend, and penetrates a world that tells us that love is sealed in an exposure of minimal compromises, overused phrases, and lust. Author Joshua Harris depicted it perfectly: “The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, ‘This is love.’ God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, ‘This is love.’” We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to the word Jesus was willing to suffer for. As we get caught up in Valentine’s Day, let us not allow ourselves to forget the God that is so caught up in us. “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.” (Ephesians 3:18) This time, we are different. There is something about the way He looks at me. There is something about the way He ignites a spark in my heart. There is something about the way He accepts every flaw perfectly. I imagine our future together. I will tell my children someday and it will be greatest love story ever told. This time, we are different.