LOVE IS HARD.
And so are dating, marriage, and relationships. And for as big a deal as relationships are in our lives, we don’t get a lot of instruction on how to get them right. You probably got more instruction on how to drive a car or do your job than you ever got on how to get a relationship right. So, you learned by observation; and depending on the examples you studied, that could be really helpful, or really horrible.
Another challenging thing about relationships is that you typically don’t get a “do-over” with people. Most of us would love to have the chance to hit the re-start button on our relationships. You may have had a relationship end in a messy breakup or divorce, and you thought, “If I could go back to the beginning and start over, I would have done things differently.” Or maybe you’ve been married for a while, and things are good, but you still think, “If we would have done _______ early on, our marriage would be so much better.” You want a restart.
This month at Journey, we are talking about how we can get a “Relationship Restart.” Interestingly, the Bible has a ton of things to say about love and relationships. In fact, most of the letters and writings we have that make up the Christian Bible are written to communities of people. The Bible spends a lot of time talking not just about our relationship with God, but our relationships with the people around us. Jesus Himself said that people would know that we were really His legitimate disciples by observing the way we treat each other (John 13:35).
In order for us to re-start our relationships, we have to change our assumptions of what relationships are all about. Each week during this series, we are tackling one of the assumptions our culture has about relationships and re-starting with a new assumption. Here are the assumptions we’re addressing:
1. “My relationship should make me happy.” That makes sense, right? No one goes out looking for someone who will make them unhappy (“Swipe right for sadness…”). But is happiness supposed to be our highest pursuit? Happiness tends to be a moving target that puts our needs and wants at the center. But love often requires us to give more than we get. Love requires us to do things we don’t necessarily want to do – things that don’t make us happy. But we do them because we love the one we do them for. The Apostle Paul wrote it this way, “Submit yourselves to one another.” In other words, put them first. Put love before happiness (and be willing to go first).
2. “If there’s a ‘right’ person, there must be a ‘wrong’ person’, and I think that’s who I’m stuck with.” We love the idea of meeting “the one.” In the movies, it happens at an unexpected time or place, but all of the sudden, there they are, and the magic just happens. And happily ever after begins. But our real-life relationships don’t always look like that. There are struggles, and the struggles are real. We can be tempted to think that our unhappiness is connected to that person and that if we move on from that person, our problems will go away. But we tend to carry our problems with us, and keep ending up with the “wrong” person, while we look for the right one. But what if the struggle is a gift? What if it causes us to grow and to help bring out the best in them?
3. Sometimes it seems like our culture says, “You’re half a person if you’re not half of a couple.” There’s this idea that everyone should be married or in a relationship, and if you’re not right now, you should really be trying to get into one. Why? Because that other person can “complete you.” They can fill in the empty spaces in your life and that thing you are missing will be complete. But two incomplete people don’t necessarily make a whole. Often it just ends up being a couple of incomplete people in a relationship. We shouldn’t love someone for what they can give to us. We should love them so we can give to them. We should love FROM fulfillment, not FOR fulfillment.
4. Marriage has kind of gotten a bad wrap lately. People often quote the percentages on marriages that end in divorce or share their story of growing up in a home with parents who co-existed rather than loved each other. Many in our society view marriage as a social construct, just a piece of paper. “It’s love that matters,” they say, “you don’t need to get married for that.” That perspective keeps things real simple and really easy – and really convenient. When the relationship works for you, you stay. When it doesn’t, you walk away. But the Bible doesn’t describe marriage that way. In the Bible, marriage is seen as a covenant, something sacred (which means, “set apart”) that two people commit themselves to. And, as pastor and author Andy Stanley says, “Exclusivity paves the way to intimacy.” In other words, there is a depth of love and relationship that you only experience when you commit yourself to someone else. Remarkable transformations follow unselfish decisions.
Hey, like I said at the beginning of this post – love and relationships are hard. But we don’t have to navigate them alone. And we have access to some incredible and practical wisdom about how we can experience the best relationships possible. Or, maybe, how we can hit the re-start button on our current relationships or marriages and experience something new.
I would love to have you join us on Sundays during February 2019 to get some real-life ideas for restarting your relationships. If you’ve missed any of the parts to this series, you can listen to the podcast here.
Pastor Darrick Young