The best I can tell, it started about six years ago Jan. 4th. This is when I began to leave my first love. You know the reference.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4)

Chilling. Even more chilling when you come to the realization that Christ is talking to you.

I used to have more of an innocence to my faith. Belief was easy and simple. The Lord said it, I believe it, that settles it. Well, that is not the best way to put it since that has come to be known as an expression of dogmatic faith more than simple faith. However, the best way I can put it is that there were certain things that I did for the Lord with more willingness and more purity than I do now. I feel as if I have replaced one aspect of my spirituality for another. I keep the gas in the car, but am less concerned about the oil.

I got a phone call from someone the other day. I knew who it was. Keeping things confidential, let’s just say that he was someone who is in great emotional need. He calls all the time. The world would call him a “basketcase.” His condition, as many would see it, is perpetual and it probably will not change. He is worried, riddled with anxiety, most of the time without hope, and always on the pseudo-verge of suicide. When the phone rang, I paused for a moment, thought about answering, and then pushed “reject.” I was too busy with nothing at all.  What would have been an exciting God appointed phone call for me many years ago is now a guilt producing annoyance.

See ya Jesus. I’m out of here.

That is just one illustration. But there are a lot more. How do you leave your first love? What is the process? Where was the fork in the road? When did I let the phone call from Christ ring to long?

Bitterness? Maybe. When Angie, my sister, died on Jan. 4th six years ago, I had a bastion of faith. Unshaken and, between you and me, proud of it. Oh, maybe not proud of it in a sinful way, but proud that my faith was still as strong as ever. I did not question God. Even considering the terrible events that led to her suicide and my involvement in them, I said to myself, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” And I really did mean it. However, at the time, I did not realize the very small oil leak that it produced. Maybe it was the yeast of bitterness that was born. Either way, what I should have said was this: “Though he slay me, yet will I follow him.” Trust was replaced by a bitter follow. Yes, I was looking for his footprints, but my steps of joy were being replaced with steps of bitterness.

Goodbye Jesus. I believe but not like I used to.

Fear? Maybe. After my mother’s aneurysm and stroke in 2006, I began to realize I was not a rock. I began to realize I was a was a little off course. I was trepid in my steps. I first recognized my Parkinson’s of the soul a few months later. I was in a grocery store alone when I got a phone call from some number I did not know. I answered it: “Hello.” “Is this Katelynn’s dad?,” came the voice of a young girl on the other end. That is all it took. Some young voice calling me asking me if I was the father of my daughter. I broke. My legs fell out from under me and I literally could not stand. I knew something bad had happened to Katelynn. After all, why else would someone call my phone and ask if I was her dad? Can you connect the dots? Probably not. For you are only being reasonable. A phone call like this is meaningless. Who cares? It’s a friend of Katelynn asking to talk to her. That is what anyone else would think. And, indeed, that is what it was. But for me, it was a revelation of the adjustment in flight that I did not notice so long ago, but now has put me hundreds of miles off course. I am now just waiting in fear for the next bad thing. 

Leave the lights on Jesus. I am going out.

Since then, my belief has become less innocent. I have begun to question things that I would never question. I manipulate the words of the Lord and filter them through my bitterness and fear. I don’t answer the phone of people in need because I don’t believe that God is going to do anything. I walk with shaky hands because I don’t know what is around the corner and I don’t really trust him. Most of all, I justify all these things, thinking somewhere in the back of my mind, “It’s okay. I deserve this.”

Not the “big things.” No, never. I believe more than ever in truth, doctrine, and fighting for people’s minds. We must. I still hate the “practice the Nicolaitans” just like Jesus. But I tremble nonetheless. Revelation 2:1-4 scares me. Look at those guys: “I know your deeds,” Jesus says.  “I know your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” Me, me, me. But why the next verse? “You have left your first love.” Isn’t persevering and enduring hardships in Christ’s name without growing weary the very definition of being by Christ’s side? I guess not.

Be back later Jesus.

I argue with the Lord and excuse myself all the time. I did not used to. I guess I am just smarter than he is now. Don’t get me wrong: I still believe in him a great deal, but I just don’t trust him like I used to.

“Prayer changes things.” Well, not really. You are going to do what you want in the end.

“I will take care of you.” Yeah, but I don’t really like your definition of “take care.”

“Have this attitude and it will be better.” Well, no one really does, so I am not going to either. I’ll be alright.

“Satan wants to shift you like wheat.” I have enough problems without concerning myself with Satan.

“Read your Bible.” I already have so many times.

“Take care of the temple of your body.” Yeah…but… aren’t you being a bit legalistic there?

“Answer the phone call of my child who is in need.” He is always in need and my words don’t do anything.

“Trust me with your kids.” Like I did with my mom and sister?

It is not outright denials of God’s word. I can still preach on these things with great conviction. I still believe in these things, I just don’t trust them like I used to. I got off course. I left my first love. Faith is so simple, but I have made it complex due to bitterness. Revival only lasts for a moment when it comes. For the last few years, I have moved out of Jesus’ house, but I check in from time to time. It is time for me to move back in.

Lord, return me to that simple faith. I am sorry for believing in you for the big things, but manipulating in the “small” things. You are worthy of my trust. So here is my hope for this next year Lord. I will begin to see all things as a divine appointment. I will again begin to live a fully converted life. I find no joy in leaving you.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    34 replies to "On Leaving My First Love"

    • Daniel

      What else can one say apart from…Thank you for your openness and candor!

    • Timothy Lee

      Sounds very familiar to my own state of soul.
      Thanks for sharing.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      Hey Michael, were we separated at birth or something?! 🙂

    • James Reid

      Anazopureo’ (2Tim 1:6-7)

      Paul was trying to encourage his spiritual son Timothy to “Stoke the Fire” within him… to return to who Paul knew he was in Christ. I often relate this admonishment of Paul to Timothy to Rev. 2:4 and believe that Christ is calling us to Stoke up the Fire in us, the Gift of God; to reject the spirit of fear and rely on the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Love of the Father and, the Discipline of the Son (Follow Me… Matt 4:19).

      I think it not to be a coincidence that the Scriptures both deal with the Church of Ephesus… Thanks for sharing your walk… It reminds me of the valley’s I travel through.

      Be Strong!

    • Josh


      I really appreciate the honesty. May God help you and change you that you may be able to do what is on your heart. His grace is able.

      I don’t say that as if I don’t need that help and change too. I do, so hopefully it doesn’t come off in any wrong way.

      I know you’re busy and probably have heard all kinds of sermons. You have encouraged me throughout the years in theology and things like that. When I read this I wanted to share this interview with a man named Leonard Ravenhill. I don’t know if you are familiar with him or not. I think he is only well known in certain circles. I hope it can be of some benefit to you.

      This interview was done not too long before his death. A lot of people have been encouraged by it. The video here isn’t high quality but good enough for watching on a computer.

      If you have never seen it before, I think it’s well worth the time.

      – Josh

    • Josh

      By the way, you probably won’t agree with all his theology ( I don’t) but the man still moves me.

    • Lucian

      What you’re describing here are the first baby-steps in the walk with God. You can either quit or continue.

    • Saskia

      Thanks for sharing. I too have terrible problems trusting. I haven’t been through anything like what you have, but I still have lots of trust issues with God.
      I guess what comforts me is that by revealing my trust issues with Him (and all my other sins!), God is only showing me the weaknesses I already had before, but wasn’t aware of.
      So to realise these weaknesses is not in fact a step backward, but a step forward – into newer, more authentic, more unselfconscious faith. Which is exactly what it has lead you to! Praise Him for that! (I’m not trying to minimise what is happening for you by the way, sorry if it sounds like that).
      My new year’s prayer is that I would strive toward God first, instead of toward righteousness first or self first.
      May we all have a richer spiritual year in 2011.

    • Spencer Barfuss

      Hey Michael, I’ve been through some very hard times, too. I think all of us have to a certain degree, and some definitely more than others. I guess one could always compare what they’ve been through with what someone else has been through…

      Can I make a recommendation? I don’t know if you’ve read this book or not, but when I read it, in the midst of my “dark night of the soul”, (which I must admit that it still feels like I’m in that period…) it was such a light in the dark for me, and brought such encouragement from the Scriptures, in light of the utter darkness that seemed to surround me. It’s on the book of Ruth, and it’s called “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb. If you’ve never read it, I really think it would lift your spirits.

      Hopefully, this is not just another “Hey, here’s a book to fix yer problem” type post, but all I can say is that I was skeptical about reading it, too, and then when I started getting into it, it just seemed like there was page after page of soul lifting encouragement.

      Let me know if you start reading it. I’d love to know what you think, and if you found great encouragement from it or not. It speaks a lot of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi (means “pleasant”), and how she lost her 2 sons, and then she returned to Bethlehem with Ruth, and it says, “She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara (meaning “bitter”), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

      Praying for you, brother…

    • Matt Berndt

      Beautifully stated. Who has not been/is not/will soon be walking in your shoes? Yet we so often deny. You and your witness are a blessing.

    • mbaker

      Michael my friend and Christian brother,

      How much I can identify with your feelings! I think it is sort of like courtship and marriage. At first it is about all OUR feelings for our loved one. Then as time goes on our feelings become tempered with reality.

      Chrisitanity is no different, at least regarding our feelings. We think our loved one, Christ has let us down when everything doesn’t come about our way. But where I’ve come to be is that we have let HIM down because we believe in our hearts it should be about us, when Christ so nobly demonstrated that it isn’t. It was when I really got that , that I stopped thinking He should answer all my prayers, and maybe I should get should get hold of what He defines as real love is all about.

      Not that I’m trying to lecture because God knows I’m in absolutely NO position to, but just saying that to accept Christ is to accept that I may not always get what I think is right, or just.

      Hard stuff for sure.

    • Michael,

      I am not going to say I know what you are going through as no two experiences are alike, but I have been through the valley of deep darkness before and I know there are not easy answers. But I also know that I have held on to Jesus and He has brought me through and I am convinced if you hold on to Him he can do the same for you.

    • JasonS

      There’s much that we all have in common, I’m sure. Loss and the subsequent struggle is one that we both have in common. July 27, 2008 was the date that my only, and older, brother died at age 42. He had a brain tumor that hemorrhaged before treatments could even begin.
      I struggled much with depression without truly realizing, or admitting what it was. I, too, have seen myself struggling to get back to my first love.
      One thing that I’m learning is that it doesn’t always happen immediately, as though it were some sort of crisis conversion. For me it is an uphill struggle.
      May God bless you. I am convinced that we shall overcome.

    • John

      Thanks for sharing so honestly. I used to think I was the only one who felt that way.

    • Joseph Avila

      thanks for sharing, comes 2011 , may the Lord return to us “that simple faith”. The last half of 2010 was a battle for me, and as I read your blog, it dawned to me that I have left my first love, sure you are right there’s no joy in leaving.

      Our God is a God of many chances, i know we are always welcome when we come back.

      Happy New Year and God bless you Mike

    • Benjer McVeigh

      Wow. Thanks for sharing this. Simple faith is hard, and I find myself denying some of the same things in God’s Word. May God continue to bring us all along in 2011.

    • Mike

      Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your heart like this. I have personally found that being honest with myself and God is always the correct step down the correct path regardless of where I’m at in my relationship with Him.

    • Matt Bell

      Dearest Michael,
      you have a brother here that understands even at this moment what you are experiencing. I think Peter said, “for the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers throughout the world”. I run to psalm 119, He cries out in prayer vs 176 “I have gone astray like a lost sheep, SEEK your servant, FOR, I do not forget your commandments”. I weep as I type this for you dear brother because my Jesus doesn’t leave his sheep nor will he leave you, oh dear brother in the Lord, even if there is a trepidation to return like a child. I am 28, was dramatically converted on July 20th 2008 from a life of chronic adultery, addiction of every kind and the most extreme of narcissism. Because of my past life of sin, the last 1.5 years I have gone through a divorce from my wife of 9 years and have seen the affects on my 4 children who are ages 4-7 . Satan has sifted and driven me to a point of suicide several times but He who calls is faithful and won’t let any temptation sieze you that isn’t common to man…” Oh how I love Psalm 119 and his cry from helplessness. His heart, my own heart, perhaps your heart are solid stone and we need the Spirit to descend on us in power so powerfully that he alone gets the praise. May he grant you the joy and tearful delight of praising his name in profound new ways this 2011. I will pray for you and I ask that you pray for me.

    • Lynn

      I’ve found honesty such as yours on the internet-never at church. Kinda like when the little child said the emporer had no clothes-only then did others have the courage to go against the group to state the truth.

      I just wanted to say that I too have automatic responses because of past experiences. I think that’s the way humans work. Sometimes people’s reactions to things seem strange to us-but it’s because we have not had their experiences.

      The phone provokes anxiety in me also. A ringing phone is a scary experience for me-crazy as that sounds. And that’s just general anxiety. My horror was my child dying at 7 months old of crib death. From that day to this-and it’s been 15 yrs.-every single morning the first thing I do is check every child to see if they’re breathing. Ridiculous and would never occur to others to think that way-but it does to me.

      Also it bothers me to wear a pair of my husband’s socks to bed. I have to make myself overcome the association that also has to that particular horrible morning.

      Anyway, don’t want to depress people. It’s just that I could relate to how these tragedies affect us in small ways basically for the rest of our lives I guess.

      I could also relate very well to not trusting Jesus or God. I heard all my life about how much Jesus loves me, he watches over me, protects me, answers prayer, cares about my worries, etc. It is not so. I’m sure my saying that reveals all my wrong thinking, interpreting of scripture, etc. Maybe so. But if that’s true, it’s me and about a zillion other regular people out there that have also come to wrong expectations of God.

      That’s all, Michael. I know we are in different categories as far as God, but your honesty is so very refreshing and real. More power to you!

    • Brandon Lehr

      Thanks for writing this! I appreciate your honesty with your struggles in the Christian life. You’re one of the few voices out there who aren’t afraid to face and admit your trials and inner demons. I take comfort in the fact that wiser and greater people than me experience these things as well.

      God Bless You and Your Ministry!

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, by the evidence of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection; your baptism in the Triune name; and your confession of sins, Christ has covered your sins. They are forgiven.

    • John from Down Under

      I’m sure CMP can sleep better at night now that he knows his sins are forgiven. Thanks for clearing that up!

    • wm tanksley

      I don’t know about him, John. I find it’s that way for me. The objective truth that God has accomplished the forgiveness of our sins should ring in everyone’s ears as good news. We should love to tell the story.

    • Matt


      Just came across your blog.

      When he launches his fiery arrows over the wall sometimes he is going to hit something.

      “with all taking up the large shield of faith, by which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the wicked one.”

      Our shield of faith is all we have to be able to defend ourselves…..

      Wield it brother!


    • Craig Bennett

      Perhaps you haven’t so much left your first love in the way you think you have… I wont say you have or haven’t as that is between you and the Lord.

      However there is a need to understand the power of lament in grief as well as understanding our position in the community of believers.

      I wrote a brief blog post about the power of lament and faith within the community here…

      Bless you Michael. In a time of my own struggles and tribulations the Lord gave me a vision of a finger and a hand… telling me that just as I couldn’t shake my own finger off my hand… he also would let go of me…

      I wrote

    • Lisie

      Thank you so much for this post, Michael. The thing that first drew me to your blog was your transparent honesty and willingness to admit your struggles. Reading this post, I found that much of what you said could also describe me. I’m praying that God will give me more of that simple faith that expects Him to do what He says in spite of experiences that seem to indicate otherwise.

    • Scott

      Michael, I facilitate a monthly gathering of pastors. In our Jan. 4 meeting I read this post to them; we prayed about our own experience of Christ as first love; then we worshiped together with the Lord’s Supper. Thanks for sharing your life and journey with us.

    • Jo Anne

      Thanks for writing my thoughts and feelings so well. :~/

    • Dylan Whittler

      Damn dude. I’ve been sitting trying to figure out why I felt tempted to leave God again; this may be part of the reason why. I fell out of love with God when my heart turned bitter. Like you, I still believe in Him, still throw myself into the throes of theology to ease my weary heart, but I don’t trust Him. I haven’t done what Peter told us to do: “set apart the Messiah as Lord in your heart…” 4 years of trauma-induced C-PTSD, mental illness, life stresses… “Trust me” God says. How can I when my life isn’t going anywhere? I’m trying and praying and hoping for His Word to match my life and… silence. Struggle after struggle, night terror after night terror. What’s the point?

    • AJ

      Thank you, Michael, and thank you, Commenters. I am experiencing God’s love through all of you. My suffering is different, yet common. Thank you for showing me how to return to Him, to love Him better, by locking arms with all of you. The enemy may fool us, deceive us, perhaps for a long season, but Jesus has won. He has struck the enemy’s head. The realization of that victory may only come in fleeting glimpses. Yet perhaps this aching for more from God is as CS Lewis describes,
      “We want so much more-something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words-to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

    • Joanna

      Hello Pastor Michael,
      I was shocked to read that your faith was unwavering at your sister’s suicide. I have been struggling with the idea of suicide a lot lately. Not taking my own life (not anymore, thankfully), but with suicide in general. I want to trust God, but perhaps he will let me carry out that final act one day. Being a Christian is no guarantee. I can’t imagine ever getting over one of my loved ones dying by suicide. How is this even possible?

      Thank for your time,

      • C Michael Patton

        I don’t know Joanna. Like so many other things, the prospect of it seems miserable beyond belief. Then, somehow, you go through it and you make it to the next day. Then the next. Then the next. It has created an unwavering darkness that is always in the background. We just have to look to God’s light all the more. Since it happened, I have had a slow break in many areas. So, I have not been as strong as I thought.

    • […] today, I read Michael’s post “On Leaving My First Love” and found similarities between where he was years ago and where I find myself now. In it, he […]

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