Love Connection – Passage 3/29/09

So, we wrapped up our series, “Love Connection” this last Sunday night.  And in one way, I’m kinda sad to see it go.  Even though it has taken a bit of work, it has been fun entering an on-going dialogue here through student’s text questions.
I have been very impressed by the intelligent and honest questions that have been texted in each night.  And more than a little humbled to be given opportunity to respond to some of your deepest questions about such an important issue.

love-connection-jpg1We have FIVE final questions from this last Sunday, and I will be responding to THREE of them in today’s post followed by the last TWO tomorrow.

But, even as we bring this conversation to a close, I pray that we would not leave this discussion to drift off into the wind.  My prayer is that this new generation would take to heart a more revolutionary way to do relationships.  I pray that the relationships and friendships and marriages of these high school students would be more whole and complete and fulfilling than those same relationships of their parents.

And so, may we care more about others than ourselves.  May we look only to God for ultimate fulfillment and never another human being.  May we live with compassion, honesty, integrity and purity in our relationships with each other.   And in that, may we find true love and healing.

Here are the questions from this weekend’s PASSAGE message.

Question #1:
At the beginning of your message all I got out of it was that it is okay to rebel against almost everything.  Is that what you were trying to say?

Wow . . . clearly I need to get my point across better.  LOL.  I was NOT trying to say that you should rebel against EVERYTHING.  What I was saying was that Christians tend to cave-in and go with the major cultural assumptions of the day as much as anyone.

So, when it comes to relationships, we (more often than not) believe the common cultural myths about “soul-mates” or that love is a feeling you fall into, or that sex is just a meaningless physical act like playing chess.  And on and on . . .

We don’t approach relationships and romantic love any different than the rest of the people in this culture because we don’t THINK anything different about it than they do.   We believe the same myths of love that everyone else does!

flower childMy point at the beginning of the message is that it we should pick up the “rebellious spirit” of the 1960’s “flower children” and as people who follow Christ be willing to be counter-cultural.  Instead of mindlessly buying into what our cultural tells us love is about, we should approach relationships with the radical “choice” and “sacrifice” oriented love of Jesus.

Interesting thing about this rebellion, though, is it isn’t about force but love.  We rebel against the world’s definition of love by loving people better; by putting them first.  We become the most rebellious by becoming the most loving.

Anyway, I encourage you to think through your past, present and future romantic relationships.  Do you find connection only skin deep?  Do you put the needs and dreams of your date above yourself?  Do you participate in healthy aspects of affection and abstain from damaging aspects in order to protect the other person?  Are you looking for happiness and fulfillment in another person or in God?”

How you answer these questions will reveal whether you are stuck in “The Matrix” of our culture’s assumptions of love, or whether you are choosing to participate in the revolution and restoration of relationships that Jesus came to empower.  I pray that you would choose the revolution.

Question #2:
Are you telling us to be gay?

Hahahaha….. (ROFL)

Honestly, I have no idea what this question is referencing.  I’m almost positive that I never said the word, “gay” or “homosexual” or anything referring to that orientation and/or behavior.

However, you texted it in and so I’m staying faithful to post your questions.  I wish I knew the context of what you are asking, and if you’d like to comment and clarify I would be happy to answer more appropriately.

But, just to answer the question as is, let me respond by saying . . . “No.”

Question #3:
If a lot of your friends are beginning to lose their virginity and you are almost the only left still a virgin, is it bad if you are feeling like you should do it too just so you can be on the same emotional level and know how they are feeling?

This is a really good question and probably more of an important one than most people are willing to admit.  I think that if we are being honest that a lot of our relationship decisions get made based on the coercive pull of “the norm” around us rather than what we believe is best for the relationship.

So, what do we do?  Well, let me at least respond with several thoughts.

First, it is not bad that you feel like you want to do it too in order to fit in.  When it comes right down to it, I doubt if hardly any of us like being the person “left out” or “not included.”  It is the feeling of loneliness; of missing out.  And it isn’t a fun feeling to have.

And, it isn’t wrong to feel that way.  It isn’t bad to feel like you want to be “included” in a community.  You were created by God to be included in a group of people.  You were, as we have said, made for authentic relationship.  And the feelings of being left out are real, they do hurt, and it is ok to feel that way.

However, even though you are entitled to those feelings, I don’t think it benefits you to go along with whatever it takes to make them go away.

chastity underwearSecondly, even though you feel like it, you aren’t the “only one” left out there that is still a virgin.  In fact, over the last few years, lots of studies have shown that the statistics of high school students waiting until later to have sex is going up.  One recent study showed that 40% of all high school students will graduate without even having had an intimate date!

So, you are not as much of a minority as you might think.  However, I know it feels like you are.  The reason is that very few people go around parading the fact that they are virgins (its usually more embarrassing due to cultural pressures), and so you don’t hear about the people that are waiting.  What you hear are the more vocal group that isn’t waiting and then you assume that everyone MUST be a part of this group.

In fact, though I don’t know your friends, I wouldn’t even be surprised to learn that some of them are maybe embellishing the truth a bit about their sex lives.  I know, crazy huh?  High school students lying about getting laid more than they really are!!  How could that be true?  ☺

But lastly, I think we find ourselves back at the question of “The Matrix”.  Do you go along blindly with what everyone else has been culturally conditioned to believe just so that you can fit in, even at the expense of your own personal happiness and the happiness of the person you end up having sex with?

That seems like a very steep price to pay for having another topic of conversation with your friends.

Perhaps, rather than “jumping off a cliff because your friends do it so you can have something to talk about on the way down,” you could find ways to love your friends better and in more sacrificial ways.  Maybe the way Jesus wants to redeem broken relationships in your friends’ lives is through you.  Maybe their greatest shot at having real romance and love is through your example in how you deal with the romances in your life with integrity and your loving compassion of them.

You see, I know you can’t relate to their sexual experience yet.  But they can’t relate now to yours (speaking of a lack of experience) either.  At any time, you can become like them.  But they can never become like you again.

the matrix (morpheus)And so, maybe your perspective helps them see relationships differently.  Maybe you can be like Morpheus in “The Matrix” and help them see what they couldn’t about love because all they knew was what they were culturally programmed to see.

And regardless of what your friends choose to do, you have a lifetime of love with someone you will be much closer to for much longer to protect.  Feeling out-of-place is difficult.  I totally sympathize with you.  But trust me.  In this case, it is totally worth it.

That pain won’t last forever.  You’ll get married and know what they are talking about eventually.  Or they’ll accept you as you are.  Or you’ll get new friends.  But either way, think long-term.  Short term happiness is a bad trade for long-term trouble.


Love Connection – Passage 3/22/09

love-connection-jpgWell, here we are in our last couple weeks of this series, “Love Connection” and I think it has been kind of fun.  Hopefully you have too.   I know we still have much to learn about our relationships with each other, and yet I think we’ve learned a bit along the way.  Hopefully this conversation will remain as a record of our time here.

Here are the questions from this weekend’s PASSAGE message.

Question #1:
Do you think dating in high school is necessary?

I’m actually kind of surprised that this question hasn’t come up previously.   It seems like there are a lot of opinions out there on this one.   Some people think dating is the best way to find a mate, and others think that dating is a cultural assumption that should be challenged.  One writer even wrote a book called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” where he encouraged people to swear off dating all together.

And beyond the opinions, there are many different guidelines that parents set out for their students; each family has its own rules.  *DISCLAIMER:  you should do whatever your parents say!!!!

high school datingSo what does the bible teach us about dating?  Very little.  In fact, the Bible doesn’t really prescribe any particular way that people should date, court or be “arranged” for marriage.

That alone is interesting isn’t it?  You’d think that as much as we talk about it that it would have some pretty big “air-time” in the BIG BOOK.   But, sometimes a lack of discussion of a topic in the Bible might indicate something important.  Perhaps there isn’t a mention of a particular method of “love-finding” because there isn’t a “RIGHT” and “WRONG” way to do it, from God’s perspective.

I mean, if God has created us to be able to choose WHO we will love (rather than pre-determining who we will love) then maybe he has given us the choice as to HOW we choose this person as well.

So should you date in high school?  Maybe.  Should your parents arrange a marriage for you?  Maybe.  Should you go on only group-dates and build friendships that will lead to a love commitment?  Maybe.

Do you see what I’m saying?  Maybe the question is not whether or not we should date people exclusively, but what kind of “daters” or “non-daters” we will be…

Three weeks ago, after the last message I answered a question that got into this subject.  It might be worth a read or a re-read if you want some more on “the kind of daters” we should be.

You’ll find the discussion in “Question #1” at this link:

Hope that’s helpful…

Question #2:
What is your opinion on long-distance relationships?

They are difficult.

Hahahaha…  Well, they are, aren’t they?

long_distance_love_cThis is a good question because many people start dating-from-afar.   Sometimes the physical distance between people is over many states or countries.  But, in another way, physical distance can be almost as far if you live in the same county but go to different schools and rarely see each other.

Look, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a long-distance relationship.   They are different.  And they are difficult.  But all relationships are difficult.  Whether you are talking about long-distance or close-encounter relationships (hahaha, sounds like some weird alien love, LOL), there are both positives and negatives.

Let’s look at the positives.  In some ways long-distance relationships may have potential for greater health.   One benefit of distance is that it often forces people to learn about each other on a deeper level than just physical.  Obviously if you live far apart physical contact will be limited.  Because of this, phone conversations and text messages and facebook chats become the primary method of affection.  But this affection-from-a-distance is healthy in that you are LEARNING deep interests, motives, beliefs and personality traits of the other person.

Also, a little distance test is good for any relationship.  People in relationships formed in close physical proximity have a tendency to quickly become dependent on each other.  You know the feeling:  “I can’t live without seeing him today!”   And yet, we have already learned that we were never meant to find our fulfillment in other human being; only in God.   Being apart physically may help keep that distinction more obvious.

datingcartoon15However, while there are some benefits (in theory) there are also some drawbacks.  People living away from each other don’t have the opportunity to experience the other person in “real life.”   There is only so much you can learn from phone calls and late-night text messages.  Who a person is on the phone and who they are in everyday life with their family and friends may be very different.

Also, the time and focal commitment involved in “long-distance” relationships often comes at the expense of a person’s other relationships that are more local.  When a person’s mind is off with his girlfriend in “Arizona” it is then difficult to invest in relationships (friends, family, etc.) or responsibilities right here in Everett.  To some degree this is true of all relationships, but more so with long-distance ones, I think.

Anyway, I think there are probably more positives and negatives that could be said here, but hopefully you get my point.  Long-distance relationships may be either good or bad, but that probably has more to do with the convictions of the two people involved than the land (or sea) that is between them.

Thanks for the great question!

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 2/15/09 – 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

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.  🙂