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.  🙂