SPECIAL BIRTHDAY POST

Hey, Everyone:

This weekend my wife, Tania, is turning 30-years-old.  Among other things, I have started a blog for her.  She has wanted one for a while to journal about our family.

My request to you is that if you know her, please stop by and wish her a “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” by leaving a comment at the bottom of the first post, “A Birthday Mile-Marker.”

Here is the link:    tanialoyd.wordpress.com

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Nick.

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Love Connection – Passage 2/22/09 – Part Two

Ok, I apologize for getting these last two questions out a little late this week.  It has been a crazy week.  But, without any more excuses, here are they are!


Question #3
Why does it seem that just when you get a boyfriend, you immediately start liking someone else?

Well, I have to say that this question made me chuckle a little bit as I read it the first few times.   Not that it is a bad question; it’s just that I think I’ve experienced the feeling you are describing.   Ahhh, love can be maddening, right?   You get involved with someone on an exclusive level, and then almost immediately you begin to notice someone else that interests you.

flirt_fullOk.  Let’s see what we can make of this.  It is a legitimate question; especially for someone at your phase of life.  So, let me just say a few things.

Part of the reason this happens is because you are at a place in your life where you are starting to explore potential mates.  Which is a fun place to be!

Because of all of the options available to you, there will be curiosity and interest in a lot of different directions.  And in that way, the feeling may not be so bad.  You do want to learn about people and personalities and which of those you like being around and could live with for the long-haul.   Meeting and exploring interest in more than one person is probably healthy.

Now, I’m not one that thinks “exclusive dating” at your age is totally wrong.   I know some people think that young people should never date exclusively.  Personally, I’m not sure saying that is necessary.  However, I think these people do have a strong point in at least this area:  You should be very careful about exclusively dating one person while young.  And the reason is because of the feeling you are expressing in your question.

You aren’t ready to get married and be committed to one person, most likely.  You are just looking at options.  Choosing then to commit yourself to one person could be potentially harmful to them and you.  You aren’t promising to be with this person forever.  And they aren’t promising that to you.  Even if you say those very words, there isn’t really anything like a marriage certificate to back it up.

Young people tend to get hurt in relationships because they treat them like they are going to last forever, when in fact, both parties are still looking at all the options.

Maybe a good idea is to avoid the kind of difficulty that is suggested in your question and choose not to “exclusively date” every guy that you develop feelings for and interest in.   I know the normal pattern is:  “See guy.  Fall for guy.  Guy and girl start dating.  Guy and girl break-up.  Look for new guy.  See guy.  Fall for guy, etc.   The cycle continues until it finally sticks.

But, a lot of young people get hurt unnecessarily in the process—like for instance, the young man that you may be dating now that I know you have no desire to hurt.  You don’t want to hurt him.  But, you are still young and exploring options.
So, maybe you could find other ways to get to know guys better (through group events, deeper friendships, etc.) without creating that type of one-on-one exclusive relationship.

2004_chevrolet_astroAs an example:  when I go to buy a new vehicle, I like to drive around to many different dealership lots and see what is out there.  And before I get too serious about any of them specifically I want to go on a “test-drive”.  Now, when I tell the salesman that I’d like to drive it and see how it handles, I don’t also promise to be faithful to that car and only that car.  I don’t promise to love it and care only for it.  I just tell him I wanna try it out.  If it drives well, than maybe we can pursue it further.

2009_corolla_s3_02Now, I know people aren’t like cars.  But, that actually strengthens my point.  The boring biege Chevy Astro van isn’t going to be disappointed that in the end I choose the bright blue Toyota over it.   (Btw, I would never drive an astro-van).  But, people do get hurt.  And we need to be careful about the commitments we make to people, especially at a young age when we aren’t ready to deliver on those large commitments anyway.

Does this mean that you can’t ever “date” one guy?  No, of course not.  But, I would encourage you to be careful in making that your standard pattern at this age.  There will be time for commitment.  A huge, life-long, for better or for worse commitment.

But for now, maybe just admit that you aren’t quite ready for that and choose to have different kinds of relationships with guys.  Pursue friendships and explore romance in a group-date format and make dating “exclusively” an exception rather than the standard pattern.


Question #4
Is it possible for someone to grow-up with a brother/sister, but not really love them?

hillbilly-toothpasteThis question, like one we had a few weeks ago, isn’t about romantic love (well, at least I hope it isn’t!  Maybe in Arkansas it is! ☺   But, as Austin said on Sunday night, one type of love found in the Bible is between family members.  So, I would like to respond to this one anyway.

I think love for family shares at least one reference point with romantic love.  It is still a choice.  You must choose to love your family (in an agape, selfless understanding of love) as much as you must choose to love your future spouse.  The nature of love is that it is always based on choice.  If there is no choice, than it isn’t love;  it is only a reflex.

Are there moments when you “feel” loving towards family?  Sure.  Are there times when your “feelings” towards your family are anything but loving?  Yep.  But, true love as defined by the Bible isn’t about “feelings” but about actions rooted in choice.  You can choose to put your brother/sister above yourself (LOVE) whether or not you currently even like them.

I don’t know who sent this question and so I don’t know what the exact problem is that your question is addressing.  But, if you are struggling with “loving” a sibling, maybe one that has not been kind to you or loving to you, please remember this:  Love is not based on another person’s performance or behavior.  Love is YOUR CHOICE.

John put it this way:  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  – 1 John 4:10 (TNIV)

Love was GOD’S CHOICE.  Before we chose to love God; maybe even when we had chosen not to; God CHOSE to love us.  It wasn’t based on whether we showed love back.  It was based on God’s choice to ACT with love.

Love is sacrificial.  Love isn’t always returned.  But, those of us who follow Jesus have decided that love is the only option to bring healing to our world.  We believe that the love of Jesus is the only hope for humanity.  And we choose to live our lives in the pattern of God and bring love to every person on the planet; even family members who don’t at times deserve it.

So, may your life be marked with LOVE.  And may your family experience greater love because of your decision to love them before they love you.  And may you in this greatest of ways show yourself to be a true child of your Father, God.

Love Connection – Passage 2/22/09 – Part One

love-connection-jpgI love ranch-flavored sunflower seeds.

Seriously.  I love those things.  I could eat them all day long.  Get me a diet coke and a bag or two of seeds and I’m content for the afternoon.

But I also love cookie crisp cereal, eggo waffles, ESPN, my daughter, University of Oregon sports and, of course, my iPhone.   I love my wife, music, God, video games, good friends, and coffee.

Love.  I say that I love many things.  But, what does “love” mean?  Obviously I don’t love my wife like I love my iPhone, right?   Well, those might be close.  Bad example.  But, it can’t be healthy.

I think you get what I’m saying.  Love for food, for family, for possessions, and for God all employ the same word but mean different things.   And if love can be used for so many things, than what does it really mean?

It’s almost as if since love has come to mean so many things that it doesn’t really mean anything.  Could that be part of our problem with relationships?  Maybe we aren’t really sure what love means anymore.

And so we love our wives like we love our video games.  We love our God like we love our sports.  And maybe that doesn’t hurt our love of video games and sports, but what if it is too shallow to create good relationships with people and God.   What if loving people like we love food is fine for the food but not caloric enough for people?

Well, we are on week three of this series, “Love Connection,” and this last week Austin talked about what love really means.   And here are the questions that came from that discussion.  Again, I’ll respond to two of them today and two more tomorrow.

Please join us.  Read the questions.  Follow the response.   And feel free to join in the dialogue.


Question #1
“What is the difference between loving someone and “being in love”?

This is a great question, because I think it gets to the heart of what we talked about on Sunday night.

3g-iphone-1The problem with both of these terms is they need defined.  When someone says, “love” what do you think of?  Love of what?  Sunflower seeds?  iPhone?   And if love is hard to define, than what about the phrase, “being in love.”  That one seems to have taken on a whole lot of fuzziness.  No one is quite sure what it means.  In fact, most people might tell you that it can’t really be defined at all.  It isn’t something you can describe; you can only feel it.

So, let’s start there because that might be a good clue.   Chances are if you can’t define it and can only “feel” it, then it isn’t real love.  At least not how I think God defines it.  Now because we can love tv-shows and birthday cake in our culture, you can call it whatever you want.  But, I don’t think the feeling of “being in love” is necessarily God-like love.

What I think most people mean when they say “being in love” are the overwhelming feelings of attraction that take over our minds.   You know, those initial feelings we experience when we meet someone we are attracted to.

And those are, in fact, hard to define.  But, we all know the things we feel in those moments of “being in love.”  All you want to do is spend every moment together.  You blow-off sleep to text late into the night.  A song plays on your iPod and you think of your future together.  You write notes and letters full of words of undying love.  All of a sudden you are a poet!  You lie awake day-dreaming of your wedding day.  Etc…

Now, none of these things is bad.  In fact, they are a huge part in bringing people together in relationships.  However, these feelings, as great as they are, aren’t love.

Love is something else entirely.  Now, we’ve covered this many times at this point, but love is not simply a feeling that overwhelms you, but a choice that is proven with actions.

Austin mentioned this last Sunday night, and I think he was right on.  He said we find a definition of sorts for love in the Bible.  1 John 4:10:  “Now this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave himself up for us as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

il_430xn17617026In essence, John says, “You wanna know what love is?  Well, this is love.  This is it right here.  You know love because God, who is love, loved you.  He defined love for you.  But his definition can’t be found in a dictionary.  Love isn’t made of words and feelings, but of actions.  Love is a verb.  And he demonstrated this action of love by not claiming his own rights and choosing to come and give up his own life for you, though you didn’t deserve it.  In fact, before you even chose to love him.”

Real love is choosing to care about another person more than yourself.  Real love is self-sacrificial.  It chooses to love the other person even when the feelings of “being in love” are gone for a while.  Real love is a commitment of the will to give whatever is necessary, to sacrifice everything for another.

For, example:  real love doesn’t pressure other people to do what you want to do.  Real love asks what the other person needs not what they want.  Real love is honest and authentic and doesn’t need to pretend to be something or someone else.  Real love is willing to give up what would be fun for what would be most helpful or beneficial for the other person.   Real love is sacrifice.

Now, the feelings of “being in love” may be what help us enter into relationships.  The chemistry that we feel in these moments is good, exhilarating and a huge blessing.   But, I don’t think we were ever meant to then define them as love.   Love moves beyond these feelings to a conscious choice to give your whole life to this person regardless of how long those feelings last.

This idea of love, then, obviously moves beyond just romantic relationships.   Should you love your family, your friends and even God with this type of love?  Yeah, I think so.  But, certainly any serious romantic relationship should be built on it.

Which moves us to the next question…


Question #2
How do you know when you truly love someone?

Well, this is a great question, but I’m a little hesitant to respond with too much because we will be going into this one a lot deeper this next week.

However, at least one thing can be said:  because love is a choice, it isn’t as difficult to know when you really love someone as you might imagine.

waterslide0_000Think of it this way.   How do you know when you are really going down a water-slide at Wildwaves?  Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I’m going down the slide when I choose to do it and push off and head on down.   In other words, I know my decision pretty quick.  Either I’m yelling and screaming down a winding tube full of raging water or I’m not.  (I just wonder how many kids have peed in the pool at the bottom!).

Love is similar.   When you choose to start caring about someone more than yourself, than you have engaged in love.

Now, I know that is a little bit simplistic, and we’ll go into greater detail this next week.  (Look at you and your question being ahead of the curve!)  But, I think a lot of the difficulty we have with knowing whether or not we are “really in love” is based on our faulty assumption at the beginning that love is this magical “feeling” that we “fall” into rather than a “choice” that we make.

superman lunch boxI mean, we make choices all day long and don’t question it.  I don’t start eating my subway sandwich and think, “How do I know that I’m really eating lunch?”  (Some philosphers might, Rene Descartes wanted to know how to know he really existed!)  I know I’m eating lunch because I’ve decided it is noon and I’m hungry and that I’m going to eat now (which actually sounds like a good idea, cause all this food talk is making me hungry).

Do you get what I’m saying?  I know there is a bit more to it than just this.  Knowing when we have gone from just the fun feelings of “being in love” to real self-sacrificial God-like love may require the tests of time, security, knowledge, focus and a whole bunch of other stuff that we will get into this next week.

But, if love is really a choice, then at some point I can be sure that I have in fact made this choice.   Now, I could choose at some other point to go back on this choice and make a new choice.  But, that wouldn’t be very loving, would it?  ☺

Hope this partially answers your questions, and hang-in there, hopefully next week will be more helpful.

Love Connection – Passage 2/15/09 – Part Two

love-connection-jpgQuestion #3:
What if the person for you isn’t a Christian and you are and she wants you to ditch your Christianity for her?  What should you do about it?

This is another really good question that is often a huge source of heart-ache for people of faith.  What do you do if the person that you are very attracted to doesn’t believe what you believe about God, life, after-life, good and evil, etc.?   This is a very legitimate question and I think I speak for many of us when I say that I totally feel your pain.

But, let’s start with something that seems small.  Your question mentions “the person for you.”  Now, at the risk of saying the same thing over and over, I’m afraid that this may be the wrong way to phrase the question.  As I have responded in the last several questions, the idea that there is “one person” or as you put it, “the person for you” out there is, I think, very dangerous to relationships and isn’t backed up by scripture.

Now, why even mention this again?  Well, because it is important.  And notice how subtly it finds its way into another question.  It is such a subtle and almost unconscious myth that has seeped into our formula for love.   I’m sure the person who wrote this question didn’t even think about it as they texted it.  And yet, here it is again.

soulmatesIt is also worth mentioning because I think it is a huge part of the answer to this question.  Sometimes I think we set ourselves up for huge failure because we take a very complicated issue—such as a relationship with a non-believer—and make it a total nuclear holocaust.   When you buy into the myth that this is the only person out there for you, it makes this question almost unanswerable.

For instance, if this girl is “the person for you”, meaning she is your only shot at real love, then you’d be crazy to pass it up and God would be mean and vindictive for creating you love someone that would cause you to deny Him.  I’d think this question alone would be a good reason to question everything you know about God.  At least for me it would.

However, the other option is that God didn’t create you to only find love with this one person.   And if that is true (which I believe it is) than it takes a very painful situation and at least makes it understandable.

Will we, as Christians, be attracted to non-believers.  I think so.  Why not?  There is beauty and goodness in all people, I believe.  I’m sure that there is much to be attracted to in this girl.

game_planBut, the issue becomes not do you feel extravagant feeling towards her, but are you ready to make a CHOICE to blend your life with hers for the rest of your life and operate as “one body.”  You see, those feeling will eventually fade and then you will have decide if you are ready to play on a team that doesn’t have the same game-time philosophy that you do.

Here’s where I am at on this.  My relationship with God is the most intimate, personal and deep part of who I am.  You can learn to know a lot about me, like the activities I enjoy, the music I listen to, the things I find funny, the things that make me smile.  But, at my core, the most intimate thing you can learn about me is my relationship with God.  It is the deep of the deep.

So, when choosing someone to love, I had to decide, “will I be able to share the deepest, most intimate part of who I am with this person?”

Now, when I was dating, I went out with numerous girls that didn’t have a relationship with God.  Many of them were beautiful, sweet and good people.   Some of them had a lot in common with me.  Some of them I could even envision marrying.

But, what I decided was that I wanted to be totally united with my wife.  I wanted to come home and not just share how my day went.   I wanted to come home and share that deep of the deep.  I wanted my wife to KNOW me.  The deep part of me.  And I wanted to know her that way to.

Did that mean that I gave up relationships with some people that were great?  Yea, I suppose so.  But, I will tell you this, I have never regretted that decision.  The relationship I have with my wife today is unified.  She knows me.  And I know her.  And as Paytyn (our daughter) grows up, I know that because we are unified she can know that part of us too.    There is a connection there that goes WAY beyond anything I could have experienced with a person who didn’t share that part of their life with me.  It is a connection that I believe God designed us to have with another person.

In the end, I guess some things are more important than the feelings of attraction and even love.  Could you choose to love a person that isn’t a believer?  Sure.  But, I think you would set yourself up for a relationship that will never fulfill you the way a relationship with girl who shares your deep of the deep will.

Anyways, there are at least several other reasons for avoiding these relationships, and many often-quoted scriptures to go along (Paul cautions against it in 2 Corinthians 6:14) but this thought alone has been helpful to me and I hope it will be helpful to you.

Either way, I do understand the pain involved and I pray that you will find peace.

Question #3
If you don’t feel that love from your family like you said you give Paytyn, how do you feel that love with God and make it better?

This question, I believe, is based off a comment that I made about my daughter, Paytyn, on Sunday night.   My comment was Paytyn and puppythat as a dad, I am trying my best to love my daughter so well that when she grows up she doesn’t feel the need to find love in other, more difficult places.  My prayer is that she grows up knowing that there is nothing she could ever do or say that would make Tania and I love her any less.   That she would know God loves her the same way.

And my goal is that, one-day, she would be in a great relationship, not looking for someone to fill some hole in her life, but in order to experience the sacrifice of love with someone great.

Now, I think the question is this:  What if you don’t feel your parents have succeeded in helping you to feel this way, and how can you get that feeling from God?

Great question.

Paytyn and iPhoneLet’s me start by saying that Paytyn will probably be your age one day and feel the same way.  Of course, I hope that isn’t true, but chances are she won’t feel complete.  Why?  Well, not because we as her parents didn’t try, but because as I have stated before, no human being—whether romantic interest, good friend or even parent—can fulfill your greatest longings of love and acceptance.

I will do my best to love her unconditionally.  But, not even the love of a devoted father can fill every hole.  The human life was created with a bit of God inside us.  Genesis says we were “created in God’s image” or icon.   It’s as if God placed a bit of Himself in each of us.  And because of that, we have these deep desires for something more.  We have these longings for completeness.  But they can only be completed with our connection to the Creator, not just each other.  We are all connected, for sure, but our greatest connection is designed to be Him.

Imagine a house.  Beneath the paint and the carpet, and if you pulled away the dry-wall you would see a framework; a structure.   It is made of a solid foundation and beams that bear the weight of the roof.  And this structure is made to do one thing:  keep the house standing up right.

house-framingYou are like that house.  Beneath your hair and make-up and clothes; beneath even your personality and passions is a framework.  And that framework is designed to need relationship with God.  And until you engage completely in what that framework was designed for (relationship with God), your house will always feel shaky and unsteady.

Now you can try and fill that need with romantic relationships or friendships, or work, or success, or having enough things, or sex, or drugs, or whatever.  But, your framework wasn’t built for those.  You were hard-wired for relationship with God.  You were made in “His image.”  And you aren’t complete without Him. And when you are willing to accept that completeness, the other parts of your house (life) will make sense.

And in that way, you may have more in common with Paytyn than you think.  I can’t give her completeness anymore than your parents can give it to you.

So, even if your parents haven’t been successful in helping you feel that overwhelming love, please know that it wouldn’t be enough anyway.  Would it be nice?  Sure.  Would it be a better foundation for you?  I think so.

But, the success of your future relationships doesn’t have to depend on them.  Their love, while desired and helpful, is not the greatest love you will find.

Now finding that relationship with God is a love relationship all to itself.  And it begins, as all true love does, with thought of the other person first.  Obviously, God has done this for you.  Philippians says that Jesus “did not claim his rights as God, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” for you.   In other words, God thought of you before He thought of Himself.

What is left?  For you to realize the greatness of that sacrificing love, and for you to choose to think of what God wants before what you want.  To return love.  And to allow Him to fill-in what is missing within you.

He doesn’t just want you to go to heaven, you know.  He wants to make you whole and complete right now.  He wants you to feel confident, loved, sacred and valued.  He is interested in your life right now, not just where you end up for eternity.

So, trust Him.  Give yourself to Him.  Choose that what He says means more than what anybody else says.  Make His image, your identity.

Love Connection – Passage 2/15/09 – Part One

love-connection-jpgWell, it is Monday again already.  And I woke up early to get started on more great questions that students have texted in during last night’s message.  So, I drove to my office, but then realized when I saw the gates closed on the parking lot that it is a holiday and my office was closed.

Which brings me to Starbucks.  And really, I can’t think of a better place to sit and answer questions.  To my left is an older couple (maybe in their 60’s) sitting across from each other at a small table, drinking drip coffee and sharing a breakfast sandwich.

starbucks logoTo my right is a younger couple (maybe 30’s).  They look as if they haven’t seen each other in a while.  She just came in and they got all “weepy” and started kissing.  Now they are cuddle up in the comfy chairs staring deeply into each other’s eyes.  They might need a private room.  🙂

And in front of me are two guys holding hands.  Ahhh, the diversity of relationships at the local neighborhood Starbucks!

So, with all this love “brewing” in the air (pun intended), let’s get started with the newest round of questions…  I’ll respond to two more today and then answer the final two from this weekend tomorrow…

Question #1
How do you know if you have found the “right person”?

This is a great question because it has to be one of the most frequently asked and discussed inquiries of most people.  Think about it.  How do you know that the person you feel drawn toward is a good person for you to spend your whole life with?  It seems like such a major decision.  You don’t wanna choose the “wrong person”.   After all, “the rest of your life” has such a long sound to it.   Too long to be stuck with someone that you don’t like.

Now, different people may have different responses to this question.  But let me give you my perspective.

First, as we discussed last night, I think we can be too preoccupied with finding the “right person.”  One of the great myths of true loveour culture’s recipe for love is that there is just one “right person” out there for you and that when you find them they will be able to meet all of your needs 100% of the time.   It is a myth that quietly whispers to us that we are incomplete without this one person who was created to fulfill our every need.

In this way, I don’t think you will ever find the “right person.”   According to the Bible, to hope in anything  (or anyone) else besides God for complete happiness will always end in disappointment.

Consider the words of the prophet, Isaiah:  “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.”

What Isaiah is saying is that everybody will let you down eventually.  Even the gorgeous young man that you think is PERFECT!   And in that way, maybe there isn’t a “right person” out there for you that is destined to complete you.

Possibly, there are many flawed individuals (just like you) that are out there.  And some of them will be more “right” for you in the sense that they have similar interests and personality, etc.  But, maybe you aren’t created to be with any of them specifically.   They could be the right “type” of person for you, but not “THE RIGHT PERSON” for you, if that makes any sense.

holeMaybe what is needed is to stop looking for the “right person” and focus on BECOMING the “right person”.  A far bigger problem in relationships today is that too many of us aren’t really ready emotionally, spiritually, and mentally for a good relationship no matter who the other person is.   We are looking for something that is missing in our lives.  We are looking for someone to come and fill a hole in us emotionally or mentally.   And our relationships are built on finding the “one right person” to fill this need, rather than built on finding ways to show sacrificial love to another person.

When we focus on finding the “right person” our relationships become about trying to help ourselves, when true love is centered on others not ourselves.

Listen to the words of Jesus about the greatest type of love available:  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”  — John 15:13 (TNIV)

For a love relationship to be successful, it must be built on more than you trying to better yourself.  It must be based on your choice to give up your rights and preferences for another person and them choosing to do the same for you.   This is love.  And if we can start to find the completeness in our life before engaging in these relationships, we will BECOME “the right person” that can succeed in a long-term relationship rather than hopelessly assuming another person can do it for us.

Question #2
Why would you want to change what you want—like your dreams—to have someone else be happy?   Are you saying that you should change yourself so many times that you are not you anymore?  How do you do that if everyone is telling us to?

This is a really good clarification question that I am glad that someone asked.   I changed how it was initially worded in the text in order to hopefully make it more readable, and so I hope that I have captured the main idea of it.  If I haven’t accurately represented your question, please text me back or let me know.

This question has to do, I believe, with the encouragement I gave last night to stop looking for the “right person” and become the “right person.”   And to some degree, I think I kind of responded to this in the question above.

However, I do want to be very clear with this point.  Becoming the right person does NOT mean that you must change who you are, your dreams, your hopes, your personality. Rather, I think it means approximately the opposite.

you-complete-meThe problem with viewing love as an attempt to find the “right person” is that we get caught in the trap of thinking that our goals, dreams, hopes, etc.  aren’t good enough and that we need someone else to come and complete them.  Looking for the “right person” minimizes what God has already given us.  We become willing to compromise what we want and feel called to, in order to find the one prize that will bring us ultimate happiness.  And then we discover that the advertisement for the prize wasn’t totally accurate and it has let us down.  But, by that point, we have given up so much.

For example, I can think of several people that I met in college.  These people were at a Bible college because they had felt since they were very young that God had called them to ministry.   So, they came to study and pursue their goal and the calling they felt from God to serve people in ministry.

However, these specific people also met love interests while in college.  And because they believed in “finding the right person,” they believed they were destined to marry them.  The problem:  these love-interests weren’t interested in ministry.  And so what happened?  These called, gifted students abandoned their dreams and ignored the call of God in their life to marry a person they believe “God had created just for them.”

They compromised.  They believed the wrong recipe and gave up what God created them to do.

Now, in “becoming the right person” you don’t need to make these concessions.  It is a process of learning to accept yourself.  To know your strengths, gifts, beauty and identity and worth as a child of God.  And to also be honest and acknowledge your weaknesses, fears, hang-ups, and struggles.

In this process, you see the good and the bad, and through relationship with God, you learn to be content with who you are.  Knowing full well the holes in your life, you allow God to fill them, and you become confident knowing that you don’t need another person to have a great life.  You won’t be looking to another human being for questions about whether your life is successful or significant, you will look to your identity in God for that.

When you have reached this point, you will have outstanding relationships because you won’t need to “change” who you are to fit another person or to make them like you or complete you.  You will find relationships in which you can be the person that God created you to be without fear or compromise.

Now, real love does make sacrifices.  But, these sacrifices won’t be a sacrifice of your worth at this point.  Actually the opposite.  You will sacrifice for your partner because of your recognition of their beauty in their identity in Christ too.

Becoming the right person isn’t about changing “who you are” so much as it is about changing where you get your confidence, strength and identity.   It is a process of discovering “Who’s you are” and being content with “who you are.”

And it is the biggest key to good relationships.

Love Connection – Part 2

Question #3:

My dad said that there’s no such thing as an “us” until you’re married in Christ. There’s just you and me. (What do you think of this?)

This seems to be a good question, if I understand it correctly.  I think your are asking about whether a “real relationship” exists before the actual marriage vows happen, or something to that effect.  From your statement, I am assuming that your Dad’s position is that two people don’t have a legitimate “union” until marriage occurs.

This question is fun because it really leads us down a road of discussion about “common law marriage” and whether two people meet the description of being “one flesh” without ever actually getting married.  Sort of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie conversation (they are dating forever, but not getting married).

jenny mccarthy & Jim CarreyI was watching the “Today Show” on TV a few weeks ago and I saw an interview with Jenny McCarthy (previously from MTV).  She was talking about her relationship with Jim Carrey (they have been a couple for years now, but are opposed to marriage).  Here is what she said about the suggestion that they get married eventually: “We’re living together… and we’re very happy – all that’s going to be is a piece of paper, really.”

And they aren’t alone.  In fact there are several famous couples that have decided against “tying the knot.”  Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt;  Charlize Theron & Stuart Townsend;  Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins;  and Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn, just to name a few.

Now the book of Genesis describes an incredible spiritual and physical mystery that happens when two people come together.  It describes the need for humans to have companionship and then because of that needs says this:  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24-25 (TNIV)

Crazy!  Something very amazing happens in this coming-together.  Two people somehow become one!

So, are Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey “one flesh” even though they aren’t married?   That is a good question!   And in this case, I think the answer is “YES.”

marriageNow, let’s think this through a bit.  As I responded in “Question 2” of the last post, there is no thought of “pre-marital” sex in the Bible.  In the Jewish culture, sex was either an act done in the relationship of an existing marriage, or was the basic form of solidifying a new one.   So, if you weren’t married and happened to have sex with a beautiful girl you met at the grocery store, guess what?  Now you are married!  Sex, in the Bible, has very large social and spiritual responsibilities as well as individual ones.

In the case of McCarthy-Carrey, I’m assuming this “union” has occurred, and the mystery the Bible talks about has happened too.  Thus, they are “one flesh.”

So too, as a high school student, depending on the depth and level you take a relationship, you also will experience deeper spiritual connection than maybe you intend.  That’s why the subject is so serious from a faith perspective.  Not just because you might get pregnant or catch an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or because God arbitrarily thinks sex is bad and dirty.  It is most serious because there is a special “joining” going on that goes beyond the physical.

Now, the danger here for the McCarthy-Carrey scenario is that this union has happened outside of a commitment to life-long security and love.  They have inter-woven their lives in very deep ways, but not made the commitment to each other long term.  They have left a “back-door” open in their relationship that either of them is free to leave through if they get frustrated, tired or just want to try something new.

In this way, your dad might be correct.  It is very difficult to experience true “oneness” with someone (free to be yourself, free from worry of abandonment, etc.) if you know that at any time the other person can just walk away.  It is the great lie of this generation as it comes to relationships.  It seems to make you safe from hurt in a relationship, but actually is much more dangerous.  I think we see the devastation of this thinking all around us today.

Ok.  I hope that answers part of your question at least.  I could write a bunch more, but we’ll be talking about this in greater detail in a later message.  Good question, though!

P.S.  After writing this response, I want to make sure I give Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey a fair shake.  I obviously don’t know them personally, and for all I know they may have made these commitments to each other in a non-traditional way.  People may not need to approach marriage through the current social norms of the union to be valid in God’s eyes  (i.e. with flowers, sermon, rings, kiss, bouqet, etc.).

Question #4

So my relationship with my parents is broken and I don’t know what to do but they always yell and it’s ruining my life and making me sad and depressed and it’s effecting every part of my life and making it suck and I don’t know what to say or do to make it better. They are never pleased with me.

This question is a little off the topic of “romantic relationships,” but does deal with another type of relationship and so I’d like to respond to it anyway.

Maybe the most difficult relationships to navigate besides those of the romantic nature are those between parents and students.  If grace is needed in romance, then it is REQUIRED in family dynamics.

Now, I don’t know who wrote this question or your specific situation here, which makes a great deal of difference.  But, based on what you are writing, I can say at least a few things.

will smith1)  Parents are some times wrong.  I have a feeling probably even your parents would agree with this.  Many times they may have something that they feel is very important for you to know, do, learn, or be a part of, but they make mistakes in how they push you towards it.  Their motivation is good, but their execution is less than perfect.

2)  Parents are some times right.  I think you would probably agree that occasionally (☺) your parents get some things right, even if you don’t want to do what they say.

Grace is required either way.  That means “giving people what they don’t deserve and not giving people what they do deserve.”  That is how relationships work.  My guess is that neither your parents nor you are totally at fault.  Both parties have probably been guilty of saying or doing things that weren’t beneficial to the relationship.

This probably bleeds through into other areas of both your lives.  I’m sure the discomfort you are feeling is totally real.  And I would encourage you to share those feelings with your parents.  Tell them, calmly, about the things in your relationship that are causing you stress and depression.  And make the commitment to “give them some grace.”

There will be things that, as parents, they deem important to you and require you to do them.  That’s ok.  You may not totally enjoy it, but it is their right as your parent.  However, there will be times when they approach you in wrong ways too.  Maybe a conversation between all of you, begun with your commitment to follow their lead and give them grace when necessary, will give them the opportunity to express their apology for the times they have failed…and bring healing.

If this isn’t completely satisfying as an answer, I understand.  It is kind of generic.  And I’d love to have a more personal conversation with you later as it relates to the specifics of your situation.  Please feel free to grab me any time and we can have a better conversation.

Thanks for your openness and vulnerability in your question.

Love Connection

love-connection-jpgSo, today I am starting a bit of brief new direction in some of my blog entries.  Our high school group is currently involved in a series called, “Love Connection” where we are looking at the amazing beauty of the romantic relationships God has created us to need and enjoy.

During each week’s message, students are encouraged to bring their cellphones and text me questions that they have about relationships, dating, love and the human need for companionship.  And each week, on Monday, I will be posting their questions and answering them to the best of my ability.

Now, you may be asking yourself at this point, “Is Nick really an expert on relationships?”  The answer to that question is probably, “No.”  But, I have had many relationships.  Some good.  Some bad.  And over time, I have learned that there are things in those relationship that I regret and cherish, that I would do again and that I would never do again, and that at times have harmed me or in some cases enhanced my capacity for real and greater love.

And while I am a product of these experiences, without a doubt my most beneficial experience has been my current one.  I am currently in a life-long endeavor of a relationship that is, in my eyes, beautiful and good.  It is a melding of two people that isn’t perfect, but does feel complete.  It represents to me all that can be good in relationships; all that God has designed for relationships to be.  It is my love-story that is unfolding in the pages of my daily life with an extraordinary woman.

But, probably the biggest motivation behind the presumption that I could even begin to answer another person’s most intimate wondering about love and relationship comes not from any romantic experience I have ever had.  In fact, it isn’t any sort of knowledge that comes from me.  It isn’t in knowing all about “love” itself, but in knowing the One who created us with the capacity to love.  It comes from knowing the One that even defines himself with the idea of love:  “God is love.”  – 1 John 4:16

And so, carefully, humbly, and yes presumptiously, I attempt to answer these wonderful and profound questions of the deepest longing.  They are high school students, but their questions are the questions of more than just individuals.  They are the questions of a generation.  They are the questions of humanity.

And so, God, can you meet us here…  Can you help us to have better relationships.  May the deep cries and questions of our hearts find ultimate rest not in any answer here, but with you.

Let’s begin . . . we have four questions this week.  Each requires a long answer, so I’ll be answering two of them today and the other two tomorrow.

The First Night (2/08/09)

Question #1:

“If a couple loves each other so much, then why would someone like or
try to destroy the couple’s relationship?

I think this is a great question, because as we look around we see many relationships that are fractured, in part, because of intereference from other people.  And it makes you wonder, why would anyone want to destroy something so beautiful?

I’m experiencing this in my own life right now.  Tania and I have some close friends that are looking at separation and possible divorce.  The big problem is that one of them has been having an affair with another person.  And while much of the blame rests with the partner that choose to engage in this deception, it makes you wonder why another person on the outside of this marriage would want anything to do with breaking up a good family of a husband, wife and three little kids.   Certainly it is complex, with no easy answers, but here are a least a few ideas.

jealousyI think some people who are not involved in meaningful relationships are jealous of those that are.  And although that jealousy might be very malicious, it doesn’t have to be.   I think that some people look at the relationship of others and think, “I want what they’ve got.”   They may not want to hurt anybody.  They may simply just want to experience the goodness of that relationship.  And maybe part of the thought process is that if they can somehow hijack that relationship that they will get to experience the same things.  Sadly, I think it doesn’t usually work out this way.  Relationships that start with deception in their beginning have built that deception into their DNA and trust and genuine love will have large hurdles to overcome.

A second reason might be that this type of person has already experienced some sort of destruction in their own relationship at some time.  Maybe someone interfered in a relationship that meant a great deal to them.  And maybe not even consciously, they have become so jaded about relationships that they no longer think they are really destroying anything meaningful anyway.  It is as if relationships are no longer sacred to them.  They survived their heart-break.  And they learned that relationships NEVER WORK.  So they see the relationship that they are now interfering with as doomed to failure even if they had never gotten involved.   This is the pessimism of love.  It tears down not trying to hurt people, but out of the reaction of having already been hurt.

And also, sometimes, I think people just like hurting other people.  I understand this one least.  But, I think it is probably the more rare anyway.  Most of the time, I think there are deep, underlying reasons that people act the way they do, even if they aren’t aware of them.

Question #2

Do you believe that God created one person for everyone? Do you believe that God gives us an opportunity at some point in our lives for true love and true happiness? Do you believe that you can find your soul mate at 15 years old? Because I do.

Wow, so there are several questions here with a lot to them.  I’m not sure I’ve got enough space on the internet to answer it all thoroughly, but they are GREAT QUESTIONS!   Here is my basic answer, though…

wedding crashers (owen wilson)In one of my favorite movies, “Wedding Crashers,” Owen Wilson’s character gives this definition of love;  “Love is the soul’s recognition of it’s counter-part in another.”  He is describing this idea of “soulmate”.  And while I love that movie, I disagree with it’s definition of love.

Personally, I don’t think the idea of a “soul-mate” is a Biblical one.  I don’t read anything in my Bible that expresses this idea of your soul having a counter-part out in the world somewhere waiting for you to find it.  It is a very romantic and compelling idea, however, and Hollywood has used this idea to create some great movies over the years.

I think it works more like this:  You are an unique creation of God, given personality traits and preferences and passions, etc. that are a special combination only you have.   Given who you are, there are many people that you won’t ever really get-along-with and will have no romantic connection with.  These people aren’t bad, they just don’t fit your specific combo set very well.  However, there are probably quite a few people that you would find connection with in humanity.  These people have combo sets that match with you close enough that you could find connection, romance and even completeness (your gifts and personality filling in the holes in their own and vice-a-versa).

However, you will be limited to all these potential choices by several things.  1) Time:  you live in a certain time period in human history, so only those people that are alive now will qualify.  Wheeewww….  no marrying dead people for you!  2)  Proximity:  meaning, there may be all sorts of people in this world that you could marry and live a very happy and fulfilled life with, but many of them you will never meet because you don’t live near them.

What this means is that of all the people that you could possibly be a good match with, there are only a certain amount that you will meet.  And, somewhere in this group, you will potentially meet someone that you will have enough similarities, attractions, and even compliments to, that you will CHOOSE to love them.

Now, something should be said here about the nature of love.  Love, according to the Bible, is not a magical feeling that overcomes us and makes us act funny.  That is the job of chemicals firing in our brain.  That is similar to what animals feel while “in heat.”   Which is ok and certainly helps bring people together.  But real “Love” according to God’s thinking seems to be a CHOICE.

hosea_prophetIn the book of Hosea, God tells his prophet, Hosea, to go and marry a prostitute.  And so, strangely, he does.  But, as you could imagine, the relationship doesn’t go so well.  She is unfaithful; she cheats on him, and eventually leaves him.   And so God then tells Hosea, “Go, show love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.”  And God’s reason for doing this?  “Love her as the Lord loves his people.” – Hosea 3:1 (TNIV)

How does God love?  He chooses to.  How does God tell Hosea to love his wife?  By choice.  For God, love is not a feeling or emotion, but a conscious choice.  This is the only type of love expressed in the Bible.  There is no mention of “soul-mates” in the way that Hollywood chooses to explain the term.  For Hollywood, love is not so much a choice but a magical recognition of a person you were destined to marry or spend your life with.  For several reasons, I believe this is a myth that we have bought into that has actually hurt our relationships and we will be talking more about that next week.

There might be another sense of “soulmate” that the Bible does refer to though.  The Bible does discuss a romantic spiritual connection between people.  In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul gives his commentary on God’s design of marriage in Genesis.   Genesis tells us that when man and woman come together sexually (which, by the way, signified marriage in Jewish culture.  There is no “pre-marital sex” in the Bible.  It isn’t even addressed.  All sex is considered to be in marriage or the declaration of marriage) that they are “one flesh.”  Paul says this means there is more than something physical going on in that act; that there is something spiritual going on here as well.   That just as we are joined to Jesus in spirit, so we become joined to each other in this romantic expression.  (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)

In this way, through marriage, you many have a “soulmate.”  But this is a much different understanding than Hollywood.  For Hollywood, you search for the soulmate (the one unique person alive that fits you perfectly) and then marry them.  For God, no one person can fulfill you completely (only He can) and so you find someone you CHOOSE to love and in the consummation and relationship of marriage you become spiritually entwined.

With all this said, I suppose you could meet someone at age 15 that you CHOOSE to love for the duration of your life.  It certainly happens.  I have good friends that are married and love each other deeply and were high school sweethearts.   However, I think it is rare.  Most people haven’t experienced enough relationships by age 15 to decide what type of person to ultimately choose to “love”.

Hope this helps.  🙂