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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 3
Four Challenges Great Marriages Have in Common
If you could take a step back and really evaluate your marriage… how does it look? Is it just a little out of sync... are there a few areas that need some work... or is your relationship on the verge of completely falling apart? Through his newest volume of “Keeping Love Alive,” Chip reveals a humbling truth… every marriage has its struggles… even the ones that look perfect. In these programs, Chip addresses the 4 challenges great marriages have in common. He exposes how - busyness, temptation, kids, and stagnation - can ruin relationships. Discover from God’s Word how you and your mate can handle these trials together - and become a stronger couple, more effective parents, and create a happier home.More from this series
If you’ll pull out your notes, challenge number two, all marriages have great challenges. Priorities. And when they are out of whack, they sort of tumble other things. The second one is the challenge of temptation. And I’d like to ask a couple questions just to get started.
So, here’s the first question: What does it mean to be in love? Right? I mean, isn’t that the whole goal of why you married the person? But to really ask and answer: What does it mean to be in love? And how do you know when you’re in love?
Second question that might be interesting is: Why is it that most relationships don’t last anymore? They don’t. I have all kind of research and statistics on separation and divorce and what has happened since 1960 and all the rest.
The other thing is that you do understand that the patterns of things, kids that have been abused grow up to be, apart from intervention, abusers. When divorce is an option, because that’s what your parents did, even though you don’t want or see – and by the way – sometimes divorce is unavoidable, right? I married a divorced person. And she was divorced because of the breaking of a covenant and she was left. So, don’t hear that – there are biblical divorces and unbiblical divorces.
But it doesn’t matter how it happens, I mean, it is painful. It’s painful for the couple, but the longitudinal studies say twenty, thirty, forty years – I have a big, thick file on this stuff. And a lady who did research, to this day, children of divorce always unconsciously have some sense of: When will the other shoe drop? Concerns about security; deep seated fears about abandonment. Because it impacts kids, not, this idea that it was probably better, it’s amiable, we are still friends, all that is whitewash.
Can people make the best of it? Yes. Can they treat each other nicely? But some of the issues that happen in a human heart, some of the things that get imprinted in a child, some of the fears, some of the struggles, some of the wounds that you – they last and they need healing.
So, what I want to do is I want to give you the biggest lies that you are fed by movies, by music, by romance novels, by social media, by self-help, by magazines. And I want to give you Hollywood’s prescription for a lasting relationship. Are you ready? And, by the way, most of us, this is unless you grew up as a very strong Christian, I’ll describe this and you’ll think, Well, what other way is there to have a relationship?
And so, there are four steps to Hollywood.
If you listen to music, if you would watch any movie, number one is you have to find the right person. That’s why there are websites. And, by the way, again, I’m not saying websites are wrong or bad. But you used to go, depending on your background, you went to a bar to find a guy or a gal, or maybe some of you grew up different, you went to a church. Or you went to school, whether it was college or whether it was military, and basically, if you’re going to find the right person, two things, your antennae is up; you’re always looking. “Man, man, she is super hot,” or, “Woo, man, that dude, he’s a hunk.” Right?
And then if you realize that you’re not only looking, but someone is looking for you, so you’ve got to be good bait. And so, the way to be good bait is if you’re a guy, it’s like, depending on your era, it’s like, “Get that creatine and start pumping that iron and, by the way, when you walk in you always hold your stomach in and everything is like that. And then there are certain things, how you dress and what looks cool and what doesn’t look cool in different eras and different things like that.
And if you’re a woman you need to be good bait, depending on the era, a little bit low cut here, a little higher up here, a little push-up there. And come on, now, true or false? True. Right?
And you are looking for, you want to find the right person. And so, in our day, as things, you might meet them that night, or at a party, or at something. And in terms of what Hollywood’s prescription is, there seems to be a good connection, and you go home together, and you sleep together.
And you say stuff like, “We’re just hooking up. There’s no relationship; there’s no connection.” And maybe that’s it. And there’s a string up hook-ups, which each time you do that, part of your soul gets left with another person, according to the Scripture. But that’s sort of what we are taught.
And then if there’s more to it, like, we have all been attracted to someone and maybe they are very beautiful or he’s very handsome and then you sit down and talk with them. And as you sit down and talk with them, you’re looking for substance now, and you’re looking for a real relationship. And you sit down with this, man, this very handsome, good looking, well-built guy and after about twenty minutes of him telling you, “I was the captain of the football team, and after I did that I did this, and I did that.” And he’s just so full of himself, you’re going, You know what? The outside looks good, but the inside, yeee.
Just like you want to politely get away or you’re with this unbelievable, beautiful, beautiful girl and you’re sitting and you’re trying to get, Maybe this is something here. And she does this and she does this and she does this. And it’s like there’s just mostly space between her ears and where she shops and what happens and… All I want you to know is we all hunt, and we all look.
But then there’s that person and then you fall in love. And it’s hard to explain. The actual word is not “love”, it’s called infatuation. Chemicals actually in your brain, your endorphins fire. You feel this sense of overwhelmed attraction. It’s a spark and a chemistry that you can’t hardly describe. Usually when this happens, your IQ drops somewhere between thirty to forty points. You do very stupid things that don’t make sense, that make absolute sense to you.
I remember, I played basketball in college and we recruited a young kid that could really play. 6’7” kid out of Ohio and they put him with me, kind of a little bit older roommate. And he was a little homesick and sort of a bit of a hometown guy. And then he met this girl.
And I would say, “Hey, you’ve got to get ready for practice.” “I just don’t feel like practicing today.” I said, “Dude, you’re on a scholarship. We need to get out there and get to practice.” And, “Hey, you need to get up and go to class.” And it was like his brain cells, it was just…
And I don’t know if it was like the first time he ever fell in love or something, but it was just unbelievable. He actually ended up dropping out of school, lost his scholarship.
There was a young guy when I lived in Santa Cruz, California. He was friends with my older boys at the time. And good looking, big, strong guy. And he fell in love with, or so he thought, he met her once. But the chemistry was just, tchoo. And so, he’d talk on the phone like hours and hours.
We have all done that at some point. And it goes, like, evaporates. So, then he just, he had this urge. So, he goes and he buys some flowers. The drive, I have made it from Santa Cruz to Phoenix is about ten and a half hours if you only stop for gas. It’s about twelve and a half or thirteen if you stop and grab a bite to eat or get out and stretch or fill your car up a few times. He gets in his truck, drives all night, knocks on her door, gives her these flowers, and said, “I was just thinking about you.” Misses two days of work. Ends up eyelash of losing his job. And I said, “Eric, what were you thinking?”
He goes, “I just had to.” So, if you have ever watched, a Hallmark movie, what I love about them is I never know what’s going to happen. I’m always on the edge of my seat going, “Mm! You know? And they are all beautiful people that live in the suburbs in unbelievably nice houses. And then it’s almost somewhere between the first two to five minutes, this person, this person, and their eyes meet, and then…And so, here’s all I want you to get.
You are bombarded by nearly every show, a culture, TV. And if you listen, eighty-some percent of all the songs that you hear that are ever made are about – what? Love! I can’t live without you. Really? I’ll die if you leave me. Here’s an old classic, but it’s one of the best lies.
“If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be…” Think about that. See, definition of love, high emotions, sparks, connectivity, infatuation. If it’s wrong, like I’m married, then I don’t want to be right, because my emotions and my feelings dictate my life.
So, you fall in love, and then the third step is you fix your hopes and dreams on this person for future fulfillment. All life is wrapped up in him or her. You are shattered. When the breakup happens, you lose weight, you lose your appetite, you feel listless, because this person, this person is your life.
As some of you have been through an engagement and someone walks out close to the wedding, it’s devastating. And then Hollywood would say, if failure occurs, repeat steps one, two, and three. And the reason I’m sharing this with you is this is embedded in your psyche. And here’s how it works:
You have different seasons and some of them are hard. And you would like your mate to meet all your needs and be loving and kind and romantic and him take out the trash and whatever it is, and then over time, because you are human and your mate is human, you do things that disappoint one another. And you say things in moments that you wish you wouldn’t have said, and you damage one another. And pretty soon, what happens is there’s hurt and there’s pain.
And depending on your personality type, some of you, I call turtles. When you get hurt, your shell goes in and you withdraw. Some of us are sharks. And when we get hurt, we lash out. And so, whether it’s an anger explosion or a withdrawal or withholding affection, or we now, we just don’t talk, there’s all kind of different ways once we are wounded. And then once you are wounded, or you are apart for a long time, then there’s this hole. And here’s how it starts. I don’t feel as connected to my mate. I don’t feel in love. Those sparks that we used to have, I’m not feeling that anymore. It seems like it’s a grind, it’s a hassle.
We are arguing about money, we are arguing about the kids, we are arguing about this. When you come home, you’re not sensitive. I had to do all this stuff. Hey, I come home and I’ve missed you all this time, and…
And you get all that kind of stuff, and this starts to happen, and here’s then, here’s what your culture has told you. Hollywood says what has happened is you have fallen out of love. So, what do you need to do?
Oh, and we put euphemisms. “We have just drifted apart.” “I’m not the same person anymore.” “We got married when it was this season of our life, but we are now so different, so I need to find someone new.” So, it goes from a fifty percent divorce rate to a seventy-five percent divorce rate. And if that doesn’t work, find someone new again.
In fact, the way you can do it now, is don’t even worry about getting married, is just live together. And what we know, the longitudinal studies, I mean, the Scripture is clear about all this. People who live together prior to marriage, unless they come to Christ and start working on things, ten years later, whether they eventually marry or not, only one out of ten will be together.
And the reason people live together is they are not willing to make a commitment. And the reason they are not willing to make a commitment is partly because of fear and partly because they want an opt-out clause.
And so, we have now created a world where we have serial monogamous relationships that pretty soon just begin to destroy the connection and the commitment of what love really is.
And by the way, God understands how we are wired. We have emotional connection needs; we have physical, sexual connection needs; we have spiritual connection needs. And you all live in a world where it’s more challenging, and at times impossible, to fulfill those needs with your mate. And God would say, “My grace will be sufficient for you. And do it my way.” In fact, that’s the whole point of wisdom.
And so, you live in a world where when it gets hard, and there’s one thing good about getting older. I’m not ready to say I’m old. You could say that, but I’m not going to say that. But as you get older, what – you get to see things from a little bit different perspective. And I have watched, I have watched almost four decades of people fall in and out of love and tell me the same stories with the same excuses. And buy this lie that it’s about finding the right person, falling in love.
And by the way, this is just an aside, and you need to hear, this is not a criticism at all.
But I have often wondered, it seems that finding the right person, like if you were super beautiful and super wealthy, or super handsome and super wealthy, and super popular – wouldn’t it seem like then it would be really easy to have a relationship that, I mean, you’ve got it.
I do great research when you’re checking out at the grocery store, there’s the research magazines, you know? US and, you know?
And there’s something like, Wow, these are the most beautiful people in the world who have almost unlimited financial resources, can do anything, go anywhere, and they change partners like we change underwear.
Infatuation, by and large, can last anywhere from six months to about eighteen, or two years, max. So, the feeling of being in love, the excitement, the energy. Then what you learn is you still have those feelings, but what you have to do is you have to date your mate, you have cultivate romance, you have to keep doing the things that fueled that.
So, I still date my wife. We still go for romantic weekends away. I still, I get up and I make coffee for her. It took me twenty years to figure that out. That meant “I love you” to her. So, I get up first and I make coffee and I either bring it to her.
What I have learned is there are certain things that if she feels loved and cherished and cared for, she wants to make me feel loved and cherished and cared for. And she has different love languages than me.
Hers are about service, like, when I learned to vacuum and take out the garbage without being asked, and doing all these menial things, filling her car up with gas. And I remember going, like, “What’s this got to do with love?” That’s her love language.
And I’m thinking, Forget all that junk. Just why don’t you say, “Darling, darling, darling, I was waiting for you to get home.” Now, that’s love, baby!
And then we can sit and have a good talk, because both our second love language is deep communication.
Well, the first five years, we were like this all the time, because, “He doesn’t love me.” “What do you mean I don’t love you?” “My car is empty with gas.” God, help me!
“I do all the laundry and I care about you and,” because, here’s what we do. We give the kind of love that makes sense to us. But it’s so different. It’s so very, very different.
But if you believe the lie, once those wounds start, “I’m falling out of love,” you unconsciously start looking for where and how. By the way, we have never been more sex-saturated in our culture and never have we had less real intimacy.
Because, see, the whole deal behind pornography, those are not real people. Those are people that have been injected and they turn on fans and it’s all hypothetical. It is not an experience that is real. And it does create chemistry in the brain. The addiction to pornography is as strong as crack cocaine, left unchecked.
And so, it creates, that’s why there’s always higher levels and higher need of what the Bible would call “more perversion”. And so, but what it is, it’s a longing for intimacy. But real intimacy means there has got to be risk. Real intimacy is I have to open my soul and open my spirit and open my fears.
Because this is what happens, the two, it doesn’t say, “Are one.” The two become one. And when you’re getting closer and closer to another person that is real intimacy, sparks fly. So you have to learn how to resolve conflict.
You know, Implanted in your mate is pictures of what real love or a real man or a real woman looks like. And when you don’t fulfill those pictures, then you have this happening. But what I would say to you is that no one falls out of love. It’s incremental drift and we stop doing the things that created this. And by the way, there is no relationship that is here. It’s either this direction or this direction.
The success rate of the above is abysmal. And the pain and the fallout and the damage, despite all the talk, for children. One third of all women that go through a divorce live below the poverty level. It is devastating what happens when relationships break up. And for many of you, I don’t have to tell you that.
So, let’s look at God’s prescription. You find it in Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1 and 2. Let me make a couple observations and with your pen, you might jot a line or two in your notes as we walk through this passage and I’ll give you the context as well.
It says, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us an offering and a sacrifice to God a fragrant aroma.”
There are two commands in the passage. One is to be an imitator of God. Our English word is “mimic”. Mimic God. How? Well, it says, “Therefore, be a mimic of God.” Well, the “therefore” is there for a reason.
So, “therefore”, if you move back to verses 29 to 32, we get a description about how we are supposed to treat one another. It says, “Do not let any [unwholesome] talk come out of your mouth, but only such is good for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander along with every form of malice.”
I could describe each one of those words, but it’s internal, it’s, “I want to pay you back,” it’s, “I’m holding a grudge.” I’ve got resentment. It’s exploding in anger. One of them is holding things in; it’s a slow burn. A different word for anger there where you just hold it in, hold it in, and there’s resentment.
And then verse 32, “But be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” And so, when he says, “Therefore be imitators of God,” he’s saying in our relationship, be kind to your mate. Be tenderhearted.
“The only cause for divorce,” according to Jesus, “the hardness of heart.” See, when you get wounded, when your needs aren’t met, when they do something, when they say something, when you feel rejected, there’s a little thin layer, your heart starts to get a little hard. And then it happens and then it happens and then it happens. It doesn’t have to be some really big thing.
But a lot, if you were like Theresa and myself, we didn’t know how to resolve conflict, and we didn’t know how to share that I’m hurt or I’m angry without attacking the other person, so we just didn’t say anything.
And so, she would withdraw, and I would feel hurt, and because we were committed to the Lord, I would focus more and more of my energy into work, because that was a safe place and I got a lot of pats on the back and felt valued. And she put more and more of her life and her energy into the kids, as this was happening.
And it was, I mean, those sparks weren’t there. I stayed married, because I made a vow before God and I think you keep your word. And then it got to be where if there’s no way out, and by the way, that’s why it’s so important to keep a vow. Because if I hadn’t made a vow and I hadn’t made it before God, and I didn’t keep my word, I just would have, I would have followed Hollywood’s formula.