Returning to My First Love
About the Guest
It's easy to get so wrapped up in a relationship that we forget about our first love, Jesus. Dannah Gresh, author of ""Get Lost"" remembers her college days when she was smitten with handsome Bob Gresh. Admittedly boy crazy, Dannah recalls how she came to the realization that Christ was ""second place"" in her heart and tells how she broke up with Bob, even though she loved him, to get her priorities straight. Dannah reveals what God taught her during this unique sabbatical, and what eventually lead her and Bob to reunite, this time for good.?
Dannah Gresh recalls how she came to the realization that Christ was “”second place”” in her heart and tells how she broke up with Bob to get her priorities straight. Dannah reveals what God taught her during this unique sabbatical.
Returning to My First Love
Bob: Dannah Gresh says she remembers, as a college student, being much more concerned about what boys thought of her than she was about what God thought of her.
Dannah: It was a dark, moonlit night. I remember so clearly that the cornfield looked blue in the moonlight. I stopped; and I said, “God, what am I doing in this car?!” His whisper into my spirit was, “Dannah, to you, this gift is still bigger than the Gift-giver.” That was sort of the turning point for me. I wanted to know that the Gift-giver was big. I wanted to know that Jesus was enough.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Dannah Gresh joins us today to talk about her transition from being boy-crazy to being God-crazy. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I don’t think—if I was going to write a guide to finding true love—I don’t think I would title it Get Lost; you know? [Laughter] It does not seem like those two go together.
Dennis: Yes, if you’re a single person, kind of picking it up, it’s kind of like, “Get Lost?”
Bob: Get Lost!
Dennis: Get Lost: Your Guide to Finding True Love by Dannah Gresh. There has to be a good reason why she titled it that. Dannah—welcome to the broadcast.
Dannah: Thank you.
Dennis: You’re no rookie to FamilyLife Today. Why did you title it this?
Dannah: Just to be rude! [Laughter]
Bob: Provocative; provocative.
Dannah: No; you know, it came from a $19 t-shirt. I’ve struggled for so many years—pulling my hair out, not only with teens and single women being obsessed with guys—but married women being obsessed with their husbands being different, or perfected, or something.
They’re just never happy with a guy, no matter what form he comes in. This t-shirt—my daughter walks in with her friend in high school. Her friend was wearing this t-shirt that said, “A girl has to get so lost in God that a guy has to seek Him to find her.” I was like, “That’s it!”
Bob: That’s the message.
Dannah: That’s it, in a sentence—what every woman’s heart needs!
Bob: We should let our listeners know—for those who don’t know Dannah—who haven’t been listening to FamilyLife Today over the last dozen years—you are a well-known author, speaker—conference speaker. Your heart is really for young women—starting when they’re little girls, and all the way up until they’re grown-up; right?
Dannah: Right; I want them to live their lives in such a way that they can know the covenant picture of marriage that portrays Christ and the church.
We have to start when they’re really little to develop that passion in them.
Bob: Let me take you back to the yearbook office at Cedarville University. You were a student at Cedarville. You made a promise in the yearbook office; right?
Dannah: Well, I had noticed a boy named Bob Gresh. He was fine.
Dannah: I liked him.
Dannah: He was my Sunday school teacher; you see? That’s why I liked him so much.
Dennis: How much older was he than you?
Dannah: Just one year.
Dennis: But he made your heart go pitter-patter?
Dannah: Something like that; yes. I was called by my yearbook editor to come to a meeting in the yearbook office. I said, “I’ll be right over.” Right after that, Bob Gresh called me. He said—I will never forget it—he said, “Dannah Barker, tell me you’ll marry me or go with me to Wittenberg Library.” I thought to myself, “Well”—
Dennis: This could be a done-deal—quick, right here! [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right.
Dannah: I said I’d go to Wittenberg with him because what I really wanted was the first one; but I thought to myself: “What do I tell my yearbook editor? What do I tell him?” I decided to just not call him.
That poor guy sat in the office, waiting for me to come to the meeting; and I never came. As God would have it—when I got to the library with Bob, there was my editor’s best friend, standing there. I realized—that was the moment of truth for me—that I wouldn’t be able to lie about some really wonderful way I had been caught up and unable to meet this yearbook editor. I would be caught with the truth that I was willing to do just about anything to get and keep the guy. That made me a liar that day.
Bob: You were a boy-crazy young woman?
Dennis: This is a quote from the book—
Dennis: “I was guy-crazy with no ambition to be God-crazy.”
Dannah: Yes, that was me; and you know what? It was almost every woman, listening, at one point in her life.
Dennis: So, what percentage of young ladies, do you think—single women—let’s say, college-aged and older—are more guy-crazy than God-crazy?
Dannah: I would say 100 percent of them are, at some point in their life, because it’s written into the human genetic code—as broken, fallen women—that we will suffer.
Dannah: Genesis 3:16 says that “your desire will be for your husband”. That word, desire, is very critical. Scholars say that the word connotes a violent craving—a craving bordering on disease—it just overtakes you. I think that well describes what we do, as women. We crave a guy. We think, “If we have a guy, all the world will be well.” But the problem is that verse is a description of how we will function when we live under the power of the curse. God doesn’t mean for us to stay there.
Bob: You had had boyfriends before you met Bob?
Bob: And you’ve shared with us before—that that did not end well.
Dannah: No; heartbroken—body robbed of the gift that God wanted me to give to my husband. There was a wall between me and God as a result of that relationship.
Bob: When you met Bob, you were attracted to him; and yet, you broke up with him.
Bob: Tell us about that.
Dannah: Well, that day in the library—when I was confronted with—that I was a liar—that was a really offensive word to me. I didn’t want to lie to friends, and co-workers, and yearbook editors to get a guy. I didn’t want to be that girl, but I didn’t know how to be anything else. So, I went for a time where I realized that chapel—Cedarville University has, to this day, chapel, every single day—chapel, for me, was about getting to go to chapel and hold hands with Bob.
Dannah: It wasn’t about opening the Word. It wasn’t about worshipping. It was about that I got to see this guy.
I thought to myself, “There’s something really wrong with that.” I didn’t know how to fix it. So, I found myself at his apartment door, one day. I just told him, “You mean more to me than God.” Now here’s the thing—Bob Gresh loves the Lord. He knew that that wasn’t okay. He also knew that it was true in his own heart. He didn’t try to stop me. He didn’t try to say, “Let’s fix this.” He just let me go. That was a depressing time. I remember waking up—because I thought I had found the one I was going to spend my life with—but now, I was just in freefall. I would wake up every morning, just wanting to sleep the day out—just sad.
I took a ride in a car—well, I should confess—it was Bob’s car because, even though we were apart, I was still manipulating my day to be with him—to see him—to run into him.
Of course, I needed to run an errand out of town. There were cars everywhere; but of course, I couldn’t find one. I had to ask Bob Gresh to borrow his. As I was driving his car—
Dennis: Without him?
Dannah: Without him, yes—because we were broken-up—we weren’t speaking. [Laughter] It makes perfect sense to every woman listening—I promise you. [Laughter] Well, I was driving down that road. It was a dark, moonlit night. I remember so clearly that the cornfield looked blue in the moonlight. I stopped; and I said, “God, what am I doing in this car right now?!” His whisper into my spirit was, “Dannah, to you, this gift is still bigger than the Gift-giver.” That was sort of the turning point, for me. I wanted to know that the Gift-giver was big. I wanted to know that Jesus was enough and that, if all I had was Him, I’d be happy.
That was the beginning of my journey to become God-crazy—to get lost in God’s love.
Bob: And that’s the title of the book. When you talk about getting lost, you’re saying that before you ever find true love, it has to start with being in a right relationship with God and Him being all you need.
Dennis: I want to go back to Bob’s apartment—you coming there and telling him that you loved him more than God. Later on, what did he tell you he was thinking? What was going through his mind, as he listened to you share that with him? I mean, was he madly in love with you? Did he have to kind of pry his hands off—
Dannah: Oh, yes! He had the hots for me—that boy. [Laughter] He just—he had it bad; [Laughter] but he realized the same thing that I did—that his love for God wasn’t sufficient for him. We both loved the Lord enough that His Spirit was telling us that that wasn’t okay.
Bob: I had a moment like that in my dating relationship with Mary Ann—almost exactly like what you’re talking about. We had dated for a number of years—
Dennis: That could be the problem; you know?
Bob: Well, that was part of the problem because Mary Ann was like, “It’s time to fish or cut bait!”
Dannah: “Put a ring on it!”
Bob: Yes; right. And I was thinking, “You know, I’ve got to have a job. I got to know I can really hold this thing together before I can propose to you.” She was thinking: “Yes; yes. That’s just an excuse.” Okay? So, it was the summer after my senior year in college. I got a letter from Mary Ann. She said: “It’s all over between us. I’m done. I’ve met another guy.”
Bob: Yes. It was a tough—probably, four-week period—from the time I got that letter—I met with her and tried to talk her out of her foolishness. She was not to be deterred. I remember, distinctly, one night—I was working at a local radio station. I finished up my shift. I was driving home on my little Moped.
I would get to the corner of the street; and I would say, “You know what I think I’ll do? I think I’ll go over to my friend, Bill’s house, and see how he’s doing,” because I didn’t want to go home. Home—alone—was just the worst imaginable. “I’m just going to go find a friend.”
I got to the corner of the street. It was like God said, “Go home.” I got to the corner of the next street; and I thought, “I should go see some other friends and pay them a—” “Go home.” So, here it was, Friday night, at 8 o’clock. I am in my depressing apartment—home. I remember thinking/saying: “Okay, I’m home. Now, what?”
That was the night that I just had a sense of God saying: “You have always had an idol in front of Me. I will have no other gods before Me. I can remove whatever idol you put there, and I have removed one for your good.”
Bob: And I remember thinking: “Yes, but now I’m out of college! Where am I going to meet another girl?” You know, I was still thinking about the girl; right?
Dannah: About the girl.
Bob: God was just saying, “It’s you and Me.” I just have to complete the story because, obviously, Mary Ann and I got back together and got married—the whole thing worked out. But I have to tell you—about three weeks later—I had a dream about Mary Ann. I woke up the next morning and I said: “Okay, God. Look, I’m trying to do my part and focus on the right stuff; but dreams?! I mean—can’t You kind of protect my dream life and keep her out because I’m trying to think about the right stuff?”
In my dream, Mary Ann had called me and said, “I’d like to talk to you because I’d like to get back together.” That was my dream. I wake up from that. I went to work that day, and got all done with work, and I go out to lunch. When I came back, there is a note there. It is a note from Mary Ann. She had called while I was gone; and she said, “Could we get together?”
I am like, “Whoa!” We got back together and the rest is history. I’ll have to unpack all of that—but I remember, very clearly, that moment of God saying, “I will have no other gods before Me,”—
Dannah: Yes; yes.
Bob: —if that’s an idolatrous relationship—even if it’s a good relationship!
Dannah: Well, it reminds me of the relationship with Abraham and Isaac. I think that’s one that teenage girls that I minister to often identify with because, obviously, Abraham’s relationship with his son wasn’t bad.
Dannah: It’s just that Isaac was sitting on the throne of Abraham’s heart—in a place that only belonged to God. That’s what we do with relationships, all of the time.
Dennis: If I can weigh in on this, too. I had a similar experience in college. I had like—I think it was 17 blind dates in one month.
Dannah: Oh, my! You were girl-crazy.
Bob: He was a player! He was a player—that’s what he was!
Dannah: That’s the word! That’s the word.
Dennis: I mean, you know. I couldn’t help myself. It was terrible. Anyway, I dated half the sorority house that Barbara was in and didn’t date her. It was not a point-in-time experience—like, Dannah, you had—or, Bob, you expressed—but there was a conclusion I came to that I needed to give my dating life to God.
Dennis: It was the same deal—it was idolatry. I gave it to God. He didn’t give it back for a long time—at least, two weeks. [Laughter] Actually, it was several months.
Bob: The longest months of your life!
Dennis: The difference in my story is Dannah had a sabbatical from Bob; and then, she married him. Bob, you ended up marrying Mary Ann. I still had a couple of years—two-and-a-half years—before Barbara and I tied the knot. But I think what we’re talking about here is the same thing. We’re talking about how you really have to get right in your relationship with Jesus Christ and start running in the right direction.
Who was it, Bob, who said: “As you’re running in the right direction, toward the goal that God has for you, look who’s running to your right and to your left. That may be who God has for you to run the race together.”
Dennis: That really is what happened with you. How long did that sabbatical last, or did Bob Gresh come out of the blue corn that moonlit night? [Laughter]
Dannah: Ten months.
Dannah: It was not two weeks—it was ten months.
Dennis: And how did he do during that time?
Dannah: Well, neither of us liked it a lot.
Dennis: Did you keep borrowing his car, though? [Laughter] I mean, it’s really not ten months if you’re manipulating your way in there.
Dannah: No. I did stop that. That night, in the cornfield, was the night that I said, “Okay, this stops.” You know, “If I mean business and I really want to be in love with God and trust Him, then I stop manipulating.”
You know, I think of how we are created to be in a love relationship with the God of the universe. That’s why He created us!
This craving that we have for each other is so complicated because He created marriage to be a picture of His love; and yet, we get it backwards. We’re like, “Maybe, if I have a great marriage relationship, I’ll understand the love of God.” No, no, no, no, no! Study the original. Know the love of God and then you can paint a picture with another person on this earth. We have it all backwards. That’s part of the Fall—Genesis says that women, especially, will have this proclivity for this violent craving for love—for a guy.
Dennis: “We love because He first loved us.” What I hear you saying is that this problem that we’re talking about here is not just for singles.
Dennis: There are a lot of married listeners, right now, who are in marriages where they may not be boy-crazy anymore but they’re certainly not God-crazy. They’ve not filled the vacuum in their heart with Jesus Christ.
Dannah: Here’s how it manifests in married women. Sometimes, they’re surfing Facebook® looking for old boyfriends. Sometimes, they’re reading erotica because they think that something certainly has to awaken and feed the desires in their heart. Sometimes, they’re looking at porn. Sometimes, they’re just disgusted with the man they’re married to because they’re trying to get out of him something only God can give them.
But the other side of that word, desire, in Genesis is that, once you have the guy, you want to control him. My goodness, sometimes, as women—as Christian women—we treat our husbands in ways we would never imagine treating our girlfriends. I never really thought I struggled with this because, if Bob had big decisions to make, I submitted; but God help the man, should he try to pick the parking space we were going to park in on Sunday morning; right?
So, as married women, we will, sometimes, manifest the desire by still being boy-crazy—searching after old loves or wishing our love was different. Sometimes, we will manifest it by controlling the love that we do have and emasculating our husbands. That’s a part of the violent craving in the curse.
God has a recipe for that violent craving—that’s why I wrote the book—so that women could explore and experience that recipe. It starts with understanding that following your cravings never works. When we are craving human love, it’s usually because we are not satisfied, fully, in the love of God.
The book of Proverbs says this: “What a man desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” So, don’t lie about it—just admit it. Even if you don’t have it and you’re poor in love, admit, “I need love.” That word, desire, in Proverbs is the same word—used only three times in the Old Testament—to describe the craving of Genesis.
This time, there’s a solution—“the unfailing love of God”. It’s used 32 times—the words, “unfailing love” —in the Old Testament. Never once is the source anything other than God Himself.
Bob: I have to ask you about the ten-month sabbatical. Were you the one who knocked on Bob’s door and says—
Dannah: No. One of the things that I had learned was that God wanted him to pursue my heart. God wanted Bob to be the pursuer of my heart. So, I wasn’t willing or going to do that. Bob taught one Sunday morning, ten months into this break-up, on the topic of “the pearl of great price.” It was one of the most powerful little sermons in Sunday school I had ever heard. It talked about the fact that following Christ costs us everything.
In the parable of the pearl of great price, this man finds a pearl of great value. He goes home and he sells everything to come purchase it—everything.
Bob, that day, was saying: “Listen! Our relationship with Jesus is that pearl. The kingdom of heaven is that pearl. We must be willing to give up everything—every ambition, every relationship, anything we have—we have to give it up.”
On Monday morning, I got to my box at Cedarville for mail. I pulled out this letter. First time, in many months, that Bob and I had communicated. It said: “There is a pearl of great price. It costs us everything, and we are told to pursue it. God has taught me, in these months, to pursue Him, at any cost. That has cost me you.” Then, it went on to say: “He has also taught me that marriage is a picture of the love relationship we are to have with Him. Dannah Barker, you are my earthly pearl of great price.”
Dannah: That was it. The rest is history.
Dennis: So, you called him and asked him to marry you?
Dannah: Nope! He still had to chase me. [Laughter]
Dennis: I started the day with Isaiah 55, verse 6. Just a brief context—at the beginning of this chapter, Isaiah speaks of what God’s commanding us to do. He says “Come, everyone who thirsts; come to the waters. Even he who has no money, come buy and eat.” Then, in verse 6, it says: “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and let the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the Lord that He may have compassion on him and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
We’re talking to individuals, right now, who need that abundant pardon—
Dennis: —and who need to seek God.
I think what Dannah is sharing here is something that should compel you to take the action and the step you need to take. I don’t know what that is—what you’re facing—where you are in your marriage or as a single person—perhaps, as a parent with a child. The only thing that will satisfy the craving that you have is a relationship—a right relationship—with Jesus Christ. It’s found in the Scriptures.
Bob: Yes; that’s really the thesis of the book that you’ve written, Dannah, which is called Get Lost.
Bob: It’s a book about the fact that you’re not going to find what your heart is really craving in human relationships. In fact, you will destroy human relationships if your first priority is not your relationship with God, and learning to walk with Him, and to worship Him. That’s the foundation that everything else is built upon. We’ve got copies of Dannah’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the book called, Get Lost, when you go to the website. Or is you want to write down the phone number and call us tomorrow, you can do that, as well: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the toll-free number—1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. Again, ask about a copy of the book, Get Lost,by Dannah Gresh when you get in touch with us.
Let me say a quick, “Thank you,” to the many folks we heard from during the month of December—who called in or went online to make a year-end contribution to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We really appreciate your generosity and your support of this ministry. It’s very meaningful. We are still tallying up the totals; in fact, it will take a couple of days, while the mail comes in, and for us to go through and process all of that.
We’ll be getting back with you on a report on how the matching-gift fund turned out. We thank all of you who participated in that, as well. We look forward to 2014 and the plans that the Lord has for us in the coming months. Please continue to pray for FamilyLife Today, and let’s stay connected.
I hope you can be back with us again, tomorrow, when Dannah Gresh will again be our guest. We’ll continue to talk about how our relationship with God affects every other relationship in our lives. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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