Meet the Right Person – In the Mirror
Author and speaker Chip Ingram talks about what he calls the “Hollywood” style of relationships. he notes that it goes something like this:
1. Meet the right person
2. Fall in love
3. Fix your hopes and dreams on that person for your future fulfillment.
4. If failure occurs, repeat steps 1 through 3.
(Find Chip’s Teachings in the Love University Bookstore, and online at www.lote.org)
The idea that there is one mystical right person is pervasive. If we can find this one special person, then the relationship will naturally work out.
I get this idea expressed all the time regarding my marriage. When someone asks me how long I’ve been married and I tell them 27 years, their usual response is, “Well, you’re lucky you married the right person.” In other words, chance mysteriously brought two perfectly compatible people together; therefore our marriage worked out wonderfully.
A Better Way to Meet the Right Person
Back to Chip Ingram; he not only identifies the highly flawed Hollywood idea of relationships, but also offers what is true for your consideration. Here’s the plan:
1. Be the right person.
2. Walk in love.
3. Fix you hopes and dreams on God for your future fulfillment.
4. If failure occurs, repeat steps 1 through 3.
Other than the last step, this plan is radically different, and I think you will realize, is actually right. Let’s take a look at how to put this into action.
Be the Right Person
What kind of a person can sustain a long-term relationship? One of the greatest and most profound descriptions of a loving person is found in one of the writings of antiquity. It says:
If I can speak different languages in a heavenly tone, but am not loving, I am an annoyingly noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I can tell the future and am extremely intelligent, and if I have a faith strong enough to destroy a mountain, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have to the poor, and give my life to save others but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not get jealous or talk big about itself; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on getting its own way; it is not easily irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice when people do what is wrong, but rejoices in those things that are true and right. Love puts up with heavy emotional burdens, has faith in righteousness, and does not give up.
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Bible paraphrase)
A good test of how you are doing as a person who is capable of walking in love (as opposed to falling in love) is to replace the word “love” above with “I.” In other words say, “I am patient and kind; I do not get jealous or talk big about myself…”
Let’s look at some of the love attributes above and how they play out in a long-term relationship.
It’s hard to imagine when you are in the middle of the exciting feelings that come with all the chemicals and romantic moments of dating, but there actually will come a day when your sweetheart will seem, well, not so sweet. They will change from being the perfect person to being a pain. The reason for this is that they are selfish, arrogant, insensitive, and have a lot to learn.
In other words, they are just like you. Mark my words, as the effect of the dopamine wear off over time, your chosen beloved will try your patience. You will also routinely get on their nerves as well. And this is when and where you must love them, patiently.
The mark of true love is the ability to do what is best for someone even when times are tough between you. A true lover will repay kindness for harshness and grace for justice. This takes remarkable self-control, determination, and is a mark of maturity.
And here’s the biggest secret of all – coming from a former atheist, someone who claimed there is no God. If you have the one true God in your life, the power made available in you from Him is amazing. We are told in the Bible that when we come to Jesus in a saving relationship, and are baptized – then we receive the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Part of the “fruit” of the powerful Spirit is patience, in other words, the living God can give you strong help in being a more loving person.
Do not try to do this alone, get on God’s side.
Who in your life gets on your nerves and tries your patience? Mom, dad, a brother or sister? Or perhaps a roommate in your dorm. Or maybe it is even your current boyfriend/girlfriend! Resolve to heal that relationship through patiently loving that person. Figure out their love language and regardless of how angry or even indifferent you are toward them; move toward them and love them anyway. If they cast verbal or emotional abuse at you, do not react. Just keep showing love – this is what patience is.
You see, everyday is a training day for your future long-term relationships. Every relationship matters. The God who created you put people in your life who need love; you need the practice and discipline of loving difficult people. Because someday that seemingly perfect person that you marry is going to get on your nerves – then it will be easier to love them, because you’ve done it before. Patient love becomes a habit, just as impatience used to be. It’s a great place to be!
Getting Your Own Way
Have you ever watched a baby when it is hungry, or has a poopy diaper? Isn’t it sweet how it patiently waits for someone to feed it or change it? Isn’t it inspiring how the baby realizes that mom and dad are very busy, so it waits until a convenient time to quietly let someone know what it needs?
No, babies never model patience. When they need something they turn red in the face, scream, and kick until they get what they want. But we don’t scold them, because after all, they are babies.
So I ask you to do some soul-searching. Are you a baby? Does everything have to go your way and revolve around what you want? Do you pitch a fit or get real quiet when your desires are not met? Are you impatient if the day doesn’t orbit around your plan?
If so, your future relationships will not go well. Long term relationships take maturity and a willingness to seek what is best for the other, not just for yourself. Childbirth, emotional problems, physical illness, and even the process of getting older will bring about changes, some of which will make the other person (or you) incapable of giving much – thus one person has to give what the other person needs while receiving little or nothing in return. These times are hard and painful, but as you work through them you find your strength of character has grown. This kind of experience, of denying what you want and need for the betterment of another, has a way of purging the selfishness from your soul. God works through this challenge to increase the beauty of who you are as a person made in His image.
As for your beloved, they learn from your seeking what they want that you are more beautiful, reliable, and loving than they ever dreamed.
Getting Your Own Way Assignment:
Watch how you behave around the people in your life. Are you manipulative? Do you use silence, crying, or yelling to get what you want? Pick someone in your life who seems to quietly serve others, and figure out what they want. Make it happen. Learn the discipline of self-denial, you will absolutely have to have this to have a great long-term relationship. (Some reading that may help you is: The Way of the Heart by Henry Nouwen and The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, available in the LU Bookstore)
The original Greek word translated kindness literally means to show oneself useful. So here’s the question; are the people in your life now glad you are there because you make things better? Or are you just a leech, someone who sucks the life out of others because you are only a taker?
My son recently came home from college for a 6-week break. During that time, he routinely cleaned the house, painted, ran errands and contributed to the ongoing success of our family. When he went away again, our life around the house became suddenly harder. You see, my son has matured into a mature kind man. His presence makes things better, not more difficult.
Are you a kind person? When you go away from your family or friends, do they wish you would come right back because of your kindness? Or do they breath a sigh of relief? There are all sorts of relationships where one person is just sucks the life and energy out of the other – can you see how it would be to live with someone who just continually wore you out?
Are you that kind of person?
Kindness Assignment –
Sit down with a parent or someone significant in your life and ask the question: Am I a true blessing in your life? Do I make things better around here, or do I wear you out? How could I contribute to making things better? Let them know you want them to be brutally honest, and look within yourself as well. If you were to leave your family or friends today, would someone have to work hard to pick up the slack or would your departure create slack?
No relationship will become great without kindness on the part of both persons; and kindness is a learned skill and a choice you must make daily. It is an important component of being a truly loving person. Keep a journal, or at least a mental record, of your kindness to others. And understand this, kindness (love) is often clothed as hard work!
Meet the Right Person, In the Mirror
Your goal in this lesson is to intentionally take steps to become the kind of person that can sustain a life-long relationship with beauty and grace. In others words, your aim is to become the right person.
One truth in relationships, and you really need to hear this, is that you cannot change your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. You can influence them through your loving behavior in your relationship, but you cannot change them.
But you can change you. You can do so even more effectively with God in your life.
Do not follow the Hollywood model, it will (as it has done for decades now) lead to disaster. There is no mystical right person with whom you will magically have a permanent and effortless romantic relationship.
I ask married couples in seminars, “What does it mean when you have problems in your marriage?” I get answers like, ” I guess it means you need counseling.” But that is not really the answer (although counseling can be a good idea), but here is the answer: “If you have problems in your marriage, it means you are married.” The same holds true for relationships in general.
So the key to having a long lasting relationship is not found in meeting the right person, rather, it is found in being a person who knows how to truly love someone else, even when the going gets really tough. Meet the right person, in the mirror.