The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and endless sky
The first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move through my hands
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love.
And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last till the end of time
The first time ever I saw your face, your face,
Your face, your face
This is probably one of my favourite songs, which I never tire of listening to. Every time I hear those lyrics and that melody, a whole myriad of feelings and memories come flooding back and I am able to relive in my mind and my heart the wonderful moments of my past which have been kept in a time capsule, in a secret corner of my heart which no one but I can unlock and cherish. It is one of those songs that has the capacity to transport you beyond the reality you are in and help you regain the joy, awe and sheer brilliance, the timelessness and mystery of those magical moments we all need to hold onto when life gets too much and we can no longer ignore our heart’s desperate cry for time out to reminisce that special, inexplicable sense of well-being, security and hope we felt that very first time.
There are many special “first time” experiences in my life which I need to hold onto like a shipwrecked sailor holds onto a life-ring the second he realises that that is his only lifeline to any chance of being rescued from the peril he finds himself in. One of the main first times which stand out in my memory is holding our first child for the first time. She spent three weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit and I was also kept in hospital for almost that time due to very high blood pressure and the threat of preeclampsia. When I first saw her, she had tubes all over her and she looked so vulnerable and delicate, and yet, none of the fear we felt for her life and mine or the stress of the whole experience took away the joy and blessing I felt at that very moment when God granted me center stage on the incredible miracle of holding a new precious life in my arms.
Another “first time” experience which rates at the top of my list would have to be the very first time I set my eyes on my now husband of 14 years and of course our first date. I was an exchange student part of the Erasmus Project which interchanges students amongst various European Universities. Once again, I was blessed to be selected amongst hundreds of other students at my Spanish University to embark into a life-defining adventure which was all mapped out for me long, long ago, although at the time I did not even know it; it was all of my own making, as far as I was concerned. The world was my oyster and I called all the shots. Little did I know, my wonderful and loving Heavenly Father was guiding my every step as a child who holds a ladybird on his hand and fearing the feeble insect will fall to the ground as it comes to the end of the hand, he lays it on top of the other hand ensuring the ladybird continues safely on its journey of discovery. All the while the ladybird remains unaware of the higher being that gently guides and protects its whole existence.
I was sent to a University in London and it was there where I first met my husband. The moment I saw this tall, blonde, blue-eyed guy in his daffel coat and perfect fit Levis jeans (you ladies out there know what I mean), I knew in my heart my life was about to take a new turn which would lead to new horizons and challenges, but I also deeply sensed that one day he would become my better half; he would be the one that would COMPLETE me. Everything he is I am not and everything I wish I was he is and so I know that it is no coincidence he plays such a significant part in my life and faith journey today and always.
I think the obvious sentiment described in this song is that of the first time one falls in love and realises they cannot continue their life without having that other person being an intricate and essential part of it forever.
For me, however, there is ultimately one “first time” experience which gives sense to my whole existence and being; which grants purpose and meaning to a life which would otherwise become at times too hard to bear and too pointless to fight for and persevere in. I am talking about the first time when the walls of religion, legalism and wrong Christian doctrine were knocked down in my life and by the power of the Holy Spirit I saw God as my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour; the first time when I truly knew in my heart that I believed God existed not because of years of indoctrination and the manipulation of the choice of what I could and could not believe, but because for the very first time I took it upon myself to embark on the wonderful quest and crusade of finding out whether God was just make believe or the essence of all that IS. I can’t say that that very first time happened at one particular moment. It was more over the course of weeks, but I do know that it was during a very crucial time in my life when I started really calling, really questioning, because the rest of my life hanged in the balance, and I started getting clear answers to those longings in my heart which no one else knew about or would have understood. The first time I realised God was my Creator, my Lord, my Saviour, my Hope was the first time the blinders came off and I realised I did not need to rely on another person to draw near to our glorious and Holy Father, Creator of the whole universe. The first time I grasped the meaning of “Christ died to set us free”, the chains of years of baggage, second hand theology and cancerous guilt finally broke off and I became a new creation in Him.
The first time I understood the meaning of the cross and I had a revelation of who Jesus Christ is, my life changed forever. Once a person comes to that point in their life, there is no turning back, even if we are often tempted to quit the race and deny what we know in our hearts, because it would be easier to be in denial than to count the cost and continue the race to the end. The first time I understood that in following Christ there is a huge cost but also the promise of incomparable gain, my life and the way I chose to live it took a 360 degree turn to the point that my closest relatives feared for my safety. In reality it was my sudden clarity of thinking and a defined and irrevocable sense of purpose that posed a major threat to the status quo in the life of others, so the immediate assumption to be made was that I was the one with the problem, the one who needed rescuing, and yet inside, I had never ever before been so content, fulfilled, and sure of where I was going and even more importantly of why I was going there. There was a new cry in my heart and an inextinguishable fire in my belly that no one, not even those closest to me have been able to put out, and why should they? I have finally found the anchor to my soul which holds me steady when everything around me is shaking and rocking incessantly. People go to incredible lengths to find that anchor, many will find it and not recognise it for what it really is and they will dismiss it and continue in their desperate quest fooling themselves into believing that anything else in this life will fill that gap, will meet that need which we all have.
I will never forget the first time that I sought the Lord with all my heart, all my mind and all my strength and He answered my call; He made Himself known to me and has been part of my every decision, my every undertaking, my every breath ever since. I will never forget the first time I became aware that I am in this world but not of it because my spirit belongs elsewhere; I became aware that what we see, hear and perceive in the natural realm is just but a minute fraction of what is actually really taking place all around us. To this day, I am overwhelmed by the mind-blowing reality that a God who made the planets and the stars could possibly care for each and everyone of us to the point of giving us the free will to do as we please even when He knows that we have messed up a dozen times before and we will continue to mess up and let Him down.
THE FIRST TIME I EVER SAW HIS FACE
I KNEW THE SUN ROSE IN HIS EYES