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About this series
Growing Through Divorce
Scripture tells us God can make something beautiful out of the ashes of our devastating choices. In this message, Chip shares that there's hope and a future for you if you’ve been divorced…and that God still has a great plan for your life.More from this series
What I want to try and do is picture for you, if you will, imagine that you’re on this side of a stream, all right? And this is the other side of the stream. And as you will see, I am not much of an artist.
But you’re at this point and you want to make it to this point over here. And I want you to picture, if you will, four major stones and that you need to move from this point to this stone, then to this one, then to this one, and then to the fourth one.
And I just call them, “The stepping-stones of growing through divorce.” And what I want to do is just give you a picture in your mind. And you’ve got to go on each one of them. What I want you to know is we are going to start and talk about a process about how to grow through divorce. But there isn’t any magic bullet. No one has “ah-ha,” just eat this, swallow this, think this thought, and everything is going to be okay. It just doesn’t work that way. You have had a major part of your life tear and the reconstruction is going to be a process.
I think there are four things. The first one, I think, is finding hope. If I wanted to, just, the first stone over here is, I think, everyone has to have a reason to get up in the morning. And whether you knew it or not, you are now aware that a lot of your hope and life centered around another person.
Your schedule centered around them; your hope. See, hope has to do with the future. Hope has to do with, Oh, I have to get up today because of…
Hope is that light that is the end of the tunnel. Hope is this unconscious thought about what it is going to be like when we grow old together. What it’s going to be like when we get our house paid off. What it’s going to be like when our kids grow up. What it’s going to be like when we can do this and then fulfill some of these dreams.
And when divorce happens, it shatters your hope. It shatters your hope. And so, all of a sudden, it’s not just recalibrating your job and your work and managing kids and finances and anger issues. It’s all about, Wait a second. What am I even living for? That’s why depression is such a huge issue among many people going through divorce.
Some people express their anger outwardly, some people stuff it, some people just realize, some people’s lives were so wrapped around the other person, it’s not like their hope is hurt, it’s like it’s gone.
That was my wife’s situation. She lived for this guy. Even though she knew he was seeing another woman for a year and a half, even though he left out of state, the moment his kids were born, in her mind, somehow, somehow for two years she tried, Oh, maybe it’ll work out. Maybe it’ll work out.
Logically you look at that situation and you say, Why would you want it to work out? But, see, he was her hope. He was her whole life. And when your whole life is gone, even a bad, “what you had,” feels a lot better than the nothing that you have now.
See, the fact of the matter is, we think we are really logical. We live by emotions. Our emotions don’t make a lot of sense sometimes. We do all kinds of things that when you think of them logically, they make no sense at all.
Finding hope, why do you get up? I would suggest that what you need to find is something or someone that will never let you down.
For some of you, the hope is shifting, if you’re a man, probably more towards your work. And if you’re a woman with children, probably more towards your kids. Unconsciously, now, I’ll tell you what. I may be divorced but I’m going to be a super mother. Or, I may be divorced, but I’ll tell you what, these kids are going to turn out right. Or, I may have lost this section and I may come home to an empty house, but I am going to make a lot of money. Or, I am going to get more people reporting to me. Or, I’m going to do, or, I’m going to…
Because unconsciously we always gravitate toward filling the vacuum inside. We will find a hope. Everyone in the world has hope. Now, you may not have written on a board and said, “This is my hope in life,” but you’ve got it.
But what I want you to do is think it through, so you don’t end up making the same mistake again. Because if your work is your hope, what do you know? Just like the woman or the man that walked out of your life, a guy can walk in, and they say, “You know what? We are downsizing. We’re not doing this business anymore and you have been with us for thirty-five years. And you have done a great job. But your job doesn’t exist anymore. Bye.”
See, if your hope is your work, you’re on shaky ground. If your hope is your kids, how much control do you really have over how your kids respond to you and how they turn out? What I know is we can create an environment and we hope they come out okay. But I’ve got news for you. Your kids will go through stages, unless they are a lot different than mine, where after you pour life and love them and you cart them to this practice and that practice and they learn how to do ballet and piano and soccer. And you do everything in the whole world and you throw balls with them and you help them with the homework, and they do this to you. Nah! I don’t want to be around you!
And then they find some friend that you think, How could my kid even want to be with this kind of girl? Or this kind of guy? And all of a sudden, you’re on the outside and it’s life!
And so, Augustine said something interesting. He said that God has made all of us, as human beings, with a vacuum in our soul, a hole in our heart. And that all of us, we try and find work or people or future or success or fame or money or sexual pleasure. We all try and fill something so that inside our hearts we feel like, I’m okay. Life matters. Life is good.
And what Augustine said, who lived a very reprobate life, he was quite intellectual, was quite wealthy, and was just a wild, wild guy. And when he tried everything the world had to offer, he realized he was empty. And his mother prayed and prayed and prayed for him.
And then he came to Christ. And then he made that classic statement that the theologians talk about that, “My heart would never find rest until it finds rest in Thee.”
You can search to fill up the hole in your heart with a person, with a job, with money, with your kids, or you can realize, at the core is a spiritual vacuum in your life.
And what I would suggest is, for some of you who really understand what I am talking about, you’re coming back around, and you have a pretty decent understanding about God. This divorce may be a time that you get reconnected with Him like never before.
For some of you that are walking with Him and you understand exactly what I’m saying, you’ll go deeper than never before. And you’ll understand that you thought He was real, but He will be more real to you than you ever dreamed.
And there are some in this room that grew up a lot like me where, as soon as I could get away from the Church, I did. And I thought all Christians were nuts, the ones I knew that were hypocrites, and the ones that weren’t hypocrites were just odd. And I thought, I don’t know much about God, but if He is anything like those Christians, I don’t want to get to know Him either. That was my experience.
But for some of you, the pain that brought you to a place like this, you’ll start a journey. Maybe it has already started. Or maybe it will start tonight. And you’ll say to yourself, I’m going to play this out. I don’t know that guy very well, but it’s true. Everyone has to have a hope.
And what you really need is Someone who will never let you down, who can meet all your needs, who will love you unconditionally, who will accept you right where you are, and has the power to change your life.
Take that list and try and find someone who fulfills it, and what I would suggest is that Jesus is the only One who will do that.
Now, you can buy it, not buy it, what I would like you to do is ponder it. And what I would also like you to do is, if you decide that is not the way you want to go, then on a 3x5 card, at least write on one side, “hope,” and then flip it over and say, For the next fifteen years, I choose to place my hope in…and draw a blank, because I believe this will satisfy the deepest longing and needs in my life. Okay?
Do that. And then write, “work,” write, “kids.” Write whatever you think it will be. “I’ll be successful.” But willfully choose where you’re going to put your hope. Because, see, if you don’t willfully choose to do it, you know what you’ll do? You’ll just do it somewhere. And you’re going to wake up in a few years or a few months and you’re going to experience the same feeling that you have right now and life is falling apart, because every time your hope gets shattered, every time someone or something doesn’t come through for you, every time we put all our eggs in a basket and the basket won’t hold the eggs, there is a tremendous amount of pain.
And so all I want to say to you is the first step toward moving from where you are to growing through divorce to, over here is hard life, pain, process. On the other side, the promised land. Easy? No. New life? Yes. The first step is hope.
The second step is to find peace. And I think the key to finding peace is to put your past behind you. How do you learn from your past, but not let your past determine your future? That’s what we’re talking about.
And so what we really want to find is, you want to find, you want to find peace. Now, there is a lot of pseudo peace, some of you, depending on where you come from, what you’ve done, you have found that after two or three drinks, you have some peace! For others, every time you don’t have too much peace, if you go to the refrigerator, you get a little peace. You can go out to eat and catch a movie, it lasts for a while.
For others, you can go out and if you’re into hobbies or sports or be with a friend, you can get it for a window. I’m talking about the kind of peace when the stereo is off, the TV is not on, the headphones are down, no kids, no friends are in the house, and you are sitting quietly by a little lamp, at about nine thirty at night. You’re tired of reading and you’re alone.
And in the quietness of that moment, you ask, What am I doing with my life? And if you have peace, what you find is there is a settled calm of, I’m okay right where I’m at, where I’m at. I have a ways to go but I am okay. And if you don’t have peace, what you’ll find is, you’ll push a button, you’ll get something to eat, you’ll find that it is very difficult to be alone by yourself.
And so, what you will do is you will run. And you’ll stay active. And you’ll push. And you’ll jump into another relationship. And you will repeat all or part of what got you right where you’re at.
Because what all do you know here? “Pain,” as C.S. Lewis said, “is God’s megaphone to the masses.” What you all know, there is more to life than making money.
There is more to life, for some of you, than raising kids. Some of you, the tragedy is, you raised your kids, you thought the deal was done, these are the great years, and how could he do that? How could she do that? He traded me in on another model? Wait a second, here!
And so how do you put your past behind you? Let me suggest that one of the key factors will be extending forgiveness to your mate. Okay? Not popular. You’re thinking, She doesn’t deserve it. Oh, I know that. He doesn’t deserve it. Of course not.
Let me tell you what it is, let me tell you why to do it, let me tell you how, and then we will talk about how they still don’t deserve it.
Forgiveness, the root word in Greek is a very interesting concept. It literally means to release or to loose. All lack of forgiveness is rooted in vengeance. Okay? Anytime you don’t want to forgive someone, the core of all unforgiveness is vengeance.
See, payback. It was my best friend. It was twenty-five years I invested. If we had enough time and probably during this time you share you story, but the reason you can’t forgive is because ultimately, it’s not fair and if you let them off the hook, they don’t get what they deserve. And in your heart, there is this sense. In fact, again, C.S. Lewis’ great argument in Mere Christianity, is this sense of justice that we have.
This is right; this is wrong! And he argues, Where did you get that from? You are made in the image of God. This sense of justice animals don’t have. This sense that when someone does something like this, they deserve to get paid back.
And if you forgive them, if you release them from that, then it’s like, This isn’t fair. Let me now say that forgiveness is not only letting them off the hook, and what I mean by “letting them off the hook” is you release them from your desire for them to get what is justly due.
And since I’m a Christians and since I’m a pastor, then what I would say is you say, “‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord.” God is just. God understands what is going on. And either in this life or the next, when people do you wrong, God will balance the scales. And so, you don’t have to throw your mind out the window. You don’t have to commit intellectual suicide.
What you can say is, If I demand that they get paid back, and I assume responsibility to make sure they get paid back, I’ll never forgive them. But if you know there is a good God who is just and who is sovereign, I can release this person and know, You know what? He will deal with them. He will deal with them.
And so forgiveness is a choice, it’s not a feeling. It has nothing to do with you feel like you forgive them. If you wait until you feel like you forgive them, you will be in your past forever.
When you get the phone call and, again, the kids are dropped off late, when the money that is owed you or you both decided to share and they don’t do their part, when someone asks you at work about how it’s going, or that they saw your ex someplace doing something, and this flood of anger and emotions envelops you, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with that?
See, what I want you to understand is if you choose not to forgive your mate, the person who is held hostage is not your mate. It’s you. You can’t afford to give another person the power to control your life by not forgiving them.
While you have the heartburn that goes up and the acid that comes in the bottom of your esophagus, while you have the fantasies at night, while you tell people and find yourself in phone conversations reiterating the bad things they have done, what you do is you keep putting wood on the fire. You keep stoking the fire.
And every time you allow what they have done, your anger, to pay them back, you keep fueling the fire of lack of forgiveness. And when you do that, the person who gets held hostage is you.
And so, that is why the Lord Jesus made some radical statements. The people that couldn’t handle Jesus was the religious community, because they had a real tit for tat.
And so, He told a parable, a very interesting parable that, some of us that even didn’t go to church much, may have heard. And it’s the story of the unrighteous steward and it’s the idea of this one guy who owes, in our day, about twenty million dollars to someone.
And he comes in in that day, in Jesus’ day, if you owed that kind of money, you were sent to prison until you could pay it back. Well, do the math on that one. You’re gone.
And so, this guy owes twenty million dollars in our equivalent of money, and he begs and begs and begs and says, “Don’t send me, don’t send me, don’t send me.” And the king finally says, “Okay, I release you. I forgive you.”
By the way, monetary forgiving of a debt is a good way to think of forgiveness, because it’s concrete. We always get forgiveness in this emotional realm. Someone owes you twenty million dollars, you sign on the dotted line, you’re released from that, they don’t have to pay you back. That’s forgiveness. You’re released.
Well, the guy gets forgiven, he walks out, and there is a guy, one of his slaves, owes him twenty bucks. And he says, “Hey, I want it. I want it.” And the guy says, “I don’t have it! Please.” And he does the same routine. Begs, begs, begs.
And the guys says, “Forget it. Send him to prison.” Well, the people that were in the room and saw him being forgiven of twenty million, go back in to the king and say, “You know old Jethro who was in here?” A little loose translation. But they said, “You know that guy who was just in here that you forgave? You wrote off a twenty-million-dollar debt. Outside, some sucker owed him twenty bucks and he sent him to prison! Now, king, what do you think?”
The king said, “You bring that dude back in here, we are going to have a little talk.” And he did and they sent him to prison. Now, that is a very loose translation of a parable.
And Jesus then said, “If your heavenly Father has forgiven you infinitely,” and that’s what Jesus did when He died on the cross. He paid for your sin, paid for mine. Whether you take Him up on the offer, whether you receive the forgiveness, that’s a personal decision. But it’s paid for.
The message of the gospel is not, Come to church, be a good person, try and be religious, give money to some cause. The gospel is Jesus was fully God, fully man, came to earth, revealed who God really was, died on the cross, and He paid once and for all for your sin, rose from the dead, over five hundred witnesses in space-time history, and you are forgiven, clean, debt canceled. That’s what God did.
Well, the point, He goes on to say, if God has done that for you, that’s a twenty-million-dollar debt. That’s an eternal debt. How can you not, in turn, forgive someone else? In terms of real, little specific ways, one, make a specific choice and then write down somewhere the day you choose to forgive them. Okay?
Because these anger fantasies, this emotional stuff, all the Maalox that you’re taking, all the sleep that you are losing, all this stuff, you don’t need that. So just decide.
The next 3x5 card you could say, I’m not going to give my ex the power to ruin my life anymore. And I’m not going to forgive my mate because they deserve it. I’m going to forgive my mate because God forgave me and because my future deserves it. And so, forgiveness means it’s a choice and I am going to write, “October 13th,” down. Or maybe you need a couple of days to really think about it, because don’t do it lightly. “15th” down.
And then under that, you’re going to say, I will not allow negative thoughts of my mate to come to my mind. I won’t foster them. I will no longer tell co-workers, friends, phone calls. All the wood on the fire, I willfully choose to no longer do, because I forgive them. I cut them loose. And whatever God wants to do with them, He is big enough to handle this. Me hating them is only destroying me. And if you never get to that point, you will never put your past behind you.
I have shared this story, there was a lady in Texas who, an interesting lady, she was elderly, elderly, elderly. And she got a raw deal and her husband had left her about thirty-some years ago. And she was the epitome of a cranky, old, bitter lady. And if it was a sunny day, you asked her a question, you got a cranky answer. If it was a rainy day, you asked her a question, you got a…
If you brought up something positive, “Hey!” You know? You got a cranky answer. And you could talk with her, usually, and within two minutes, guess what she brought up? “You can’t believe what Harry did. Harry ruined my life. Harry ruined the kids. Harry ruined our future. Harry made a vow to the Lord and he didn’t keep it. Harry…” You know what? For thirty-one years!
And you know who the most wretched woman on the face of the earth was? Harry’s wife. Harry is probably in the Bahamas! Harry is probably on vacation. Harry is probably an eighty-year-old, snow skiing in Vail! I don’t know what Harry is doing. But Harry’s wife allowed her bitterness to ruin the whole rest of her life. She never made it to the second stone.
Now, you know what? I have tried to do this in a little backhanded way. I understand how hard what I am asking you to do is. I understand how deeply and intensely emotional it is. And I’m not saying you’ll feel like it. I’m saying it’s a choice. And you make that choice and you’ll go back and you’ll blow it and then you pull that 3x5 out and you say, “I chose to do this.” And when you act on that choice long enough, little by little, maybe a year, two, three, the emotions will start to come. The emotions will start.
In fact, ask the people with the green badges. That would be a good question: “When did you forgive your mate? And how did it work?” That would be a great question a little bit later, because you have to hear. And some of them might say, “Well, I’m still working on it. I’ve done it, but experiencing it is still taking some time. There are times I still wake up, sometimes I hear a song. Sometimes one of my kids says something and, ooh, I’ll get a twinge.”
The third stepping-stone is you need to find hope, you need to find peace. This last one, probably most of you, this has crossed your mind already, you need to find love, right? “Looking for love,” oh, that’s the wrong song. “…all the wrong places.”
But that’s sort of what we want to avoid. Avoid the pitfalls of transition. There is rarely a time in your life, and I’ll say it, you’ll nod, I’ll go ahead and say it again, a great majority of you will intellectually understand exactly what I’m saying, will emotionally lie to yourself, you will not do what you are going to be told, and you’re going to end up in another ditch. Okay? I just want you to know that. So maybe that will be at least a little bit more warning.
You have never been as vulnerable as you are right now, and you have never been more unready for another relationship than you are right now. And you have never desired one, probably, any more than where you’re at right now. And that’s okay! It’s okay to desire that. But you are wounded. It’s kind of like you can look at life like this or you can look at it with a little tilt.
Now, don’t take this personally, all right? I like you guys. You’re looking at life like this right now. It’s just, it’s grief, it’s loss, it’s pain, it’s wounded, you’re questioning yourself, and you’re going to go into any other relationship, unconsciously, asking them to fix you, to help you, to heal the wound. You are a needy person. It’s okay to be needy. You just make sure you get the right doctor, and get the right medicine.
You have to avoid the pitfalls. And let me just give you a suggestion, I suggest a minimum, for the next eighteen months, don’t date anybody. What? Don’t date anybody. See, here’s the scenario. And, see, I do this for a living. I’ve been around this barn with lots of people.
And so, what happens is you’re really, really hurting and the person, your ex is a lot worse than they really are. No matter how bad they are, in your mind, they’re a little worse. And whoever you meet right now comes off and feels a lot better than they really are.
And so, you are really needy and you have these holes in your heart, and you will attract, like magnets, you will attract the kind of person that wants to fix you. Or if you’re a fix-it type person, you now don’t have someone to fix, so you’re going to go find someone who you can fix or mother or take care of or be strong for or be a warrior for or do all this jazz the psychologists tell us about. And you’ll go find them.
And then what will happen is as you keep growing and you keep growing, about eighteen months, two years from now, here’s what is going to happen, little by little. You’re going to get whole again.
And instead of being an emotionally needy person who needs someone to fill me up and needs someone to make me okay, you’re going to think, You know what? It is a lie. The key to life isn’t finding the right person. The key to life is being the right person. And you’ll start becoming that kind of person.
And you’ll have self-confidence and you’ll see life through fresh eyes. And all of a sudden, you’ll turn and you’ll think, How did I get myself in this relationship with this dysfunctional person? And I’ll tell you how. Because that is how dysfunctional you were when you met them.
And then ask yourself, where are you meeting people right now? The totally committed, loyal, loving kind of person, open communication, caring, good provider, sensitive – you think those people hang out in bars five and six nights a week? Let’s just do some thinking about how this all works.
And, yet, we gravitate and go and do things because we want to meet people and then we repeat. One of the things, ladies, let me give you a word on this, and I probably shouldn’t be too candid but I have never held back before, most men give attention to get sex. And most of you are old enough to know that.
But when you are really, really needy, there are men that have radar. And men who find needy women like you, you know what? What do you need to hear, babe? Just, what do you need to hear? How do you need to feel? And the goal is to get you in bed.
They don’t love you. They just want to have sex. And instead of feeling better and loved and cared for, and maybe the dinner will do that, and maybe a little conversation will do that. And maybe the physical act, for a little while, will do that. And then you will feel used. And then you live with a layer of guilt. And pretty soon you start not liking yourself.
And I don’t mean at all to paint men as the bad guys. Because, see, what men are looking for is intimacy. We have lived in a world where the pseudo-intimacy for a man is sex. Because it feels like you are close to someone.
And what we really want is to be loved and cared for and affirmed and respected. But, boy, that takes a lot of time and a lot of work and most of us don’t know how to do it.
So, our culture says, “Sex!” So, we go with that and then we feel bad for using people. And it’s just a very, very dangerous cycle that produces unbelievable pain.
See, what you don’t need to find is another relationship. What you need to find is love. And you can’t love someone else until, get this down, I would even suggest you write this down. Until you’re ready to be a giver, you will never have a truly loving relationship.
If your tentacles are out, I need, I need, I need, I need, then you will attract the kind of people and form the kind of relationship that you’ll say, Oh my gosh. This is nightmare number two or nightmare number three. The names and faces have changed and it is happening again! And it will.
But until you’re emotionally whole, until you get to the point where – are you ready for this? – you don’t need another person, you don’t need another person, then what you do is you attract the kind of people that don’t need to fix someone or don’t need someone to make them whole. And then you have a mature, loving relationship.
I’ll brag on my wife for a second. She grew up in an environment where, I don’t know if all churches were terrible when she and I grew up and maybe they have gotten better, a lot of them are worse, I don’t know.
But I grew up in a terrible church and she grew up in a terrible church. She never heard about God in her church. That’s a sad thing. And so, she was at the point of committing suicide. She’s got two kids, emotionally just out of gas, was down to ninety-some pounds.
And no hope. And looking for love. And her boss introduced her and told her, “God loves you.” She goes, “I don’t get that. I don’t believe in God. I don’t even know if He is real. How do you know?” And he explained the gospel like I explained it to you.
And then he and his wife had her over for dinner and they cared and they loved her. And in a little tiny country church in West Virginia, then, she asked Christ to come into her life. Literally, at a point of desperation.
And then she began to read the Bible and read some passages in Isaiah about how God said, “I will be your husband. I will be your rock, I will be your fortress, I’ll be your refuge. I will be to you what you have always wanted.”
And she was just naïve enough to believe that if He said it, He would actually do it. I met her two and a half years later and she was one of the most whole people I ever met. And I’ll never forget, because the first time, I was leading a campus ministry and I had lots of struggles in my life.
And one of them was I was full of myself. And I haven’t overcome that at all but I’m making progress as God shows me.
So, I asked her out thinking she is going to say yes. And she says no! She goes, “I have a prior commitment.” And I’m thinking to myself, What do you mean, “You’ve got a prior commitment?” It’s like, more prior than me?
And it was like, “Yeah!” And I was, I don’t know, twenty-three or something and arrogant. So, I just couldn’t believe it. So, I ended up driving around in my little Volkswagen and I drive by her house and her car is there. And the light is on. And I’m thinking, Prior commitment my foot! I just got the big reject! And I’m hurt. You know, all this stuff.
And then I find out she did have a prior commitment. Now, here is a lady who has been single for two and a half years. She has got two kids. I learned later that how she made it even week to week, just for groceries, who had been praying for a husband after she knew, Man, there is no hope.
And now the first man that takes an interest asked her out for a date, she says, “no,” because every Thursday and Tuesday night, she decided she would give those as a gift to God. And she would get her guitar out and she would sing for about an hour and then she would get her Bible out and she would read for about an hour.
And then she would pray and just build. When she talked about God, so help me, it was like He was in the next room. I’m thinking, Where did she learn? She just radiated, there was something very special about her.
And then I found out, she said, “no” to me because she had a, this sounds weird, but a date with God. Ladies, you know what it was? It was like, bing! And it was like, I’m going after this one. It was like, Hey, no holds barred.
Because I was at that stage where, when you’re in college and ladies are twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, and they are not married, they are looking for someone to marry. And I was meeting girls who were thinking I was an eligible candidate.
And because I was leading this ministry, I was up in front of people, so I had that eligible candidate look. And then I met a girl who didn’t need me at all, and it was the most attractive thing I ever experienced in my life.
And I don’t want to tell you how, we spent exciting times singing, playing the guitar, praying. We became best friends. I never even kissed her until after I knew her for a year and a half.
Now, that was different from my past relationships with other girls. I had to start over and learn. And we built a foundation that was, first, spiritual and then psychological, we got to know each other. And then we allowed the emotions to kick in. And then we did it the old-fashioned way. We went ahead and got married before we got involved, physically. And God really honored that.
But what I want to say to you is that is the kind of person that will be attractive. Get whole. Don’t short-circuit the program. Don’t jump into something.
The final one is I believe we need to find a future. You have to find hope, stone number one. You have to find peace. You have to find love. And then you have to find a future.
And in that, what I mean is, okay, you have to change your perspective and have a positive perspective. There are some women in this room if the truth is known, it’s not only that your husband is a bad guy, you have now come to a new conclusion. You try and hide it and you smile. Every man in the world is a jerk! Okay? They are jerks! They are all jerks!
And that kind of attitude will not be conducive to further positive relationships in your life. Just a theory, just a theory.
And what you need to have is you need to learn how to develop a future, but you need to have healthy relationships. And to develop a healthy relationship, then you need a polaroid picture in your mind of, What does a healthy relationship look like so I can start moving toward: that’s the kind of relationship that I want?
Does that make sense? Because what happens is, the fact is, yours wasn’t healthy. Healthy things grow, unhealthy things die. Now, I’m not saying it’s your fault. We’re not talking about fault. We are just saying it was unhealthy.
So, if you come out of an unhealthy relationship, part of that good counseling, I went there thinking, Boy, this is going to be really great for my wife. I did. Boy, this is good. She’s got all that baggage, been through a lot, her husband left her, we’ve got these two little kids, she comes from this tough background. This counseling is good because then when she gets shaped up, our marriage will really…you know?
And I’m sitting there and I’m realizing, I think the person with all the problems is me! And I realized, Man, am I more insecure than I ever dreamed! Boy, am I so sensitive and fearful of rejection! Boy, do I come from a family system where the reason we all talk is so we don’t get to know each other sometimes. That doesn’t make sense. And the reason they never talk is because they don’t want to get to know each other. And the reason we can’t talk is that everyone in my family never shuts up and then everybody in her family never says a word!
And we put that thing together and it really didn’t work for us either! But it was mine and hers. And so, what we had to do is realize we all come, what do the psychologists call it? “The family of origin.” You all come from a family of origin and your picture, your polaroid picture in your mind about what a healthy relationship is, unconsciously, is whatever you came out of.
I’ve got news for you. It isn’t true! It probably wasn’t all that healthy! Most of us, let’s see, I’m looking around the room and I’m probably within ten years of most people. An awful lot of us had G.I. dads. And that means they came from an era where they didn’t talk with their dads and we had dads and family systems who, “Bring the bread home, protect the family, honey, you raise the kids.”
And all this jazz about relationships and intimacy and sensitivity and communication. Forget that. And mama’s job was, hey, you bake the bread and no matter how bad it gets, we stay together. And if we have a problem, stuff it.
Those are the kind of homes a lot of us came out of. That is the G.I. generation. I have talked to, boy, you should, nah, I won’t go there.
But we have a staff full of guys in their forties and it is unbelievable when we get together, men and women, and talk about our home lives. And it’s like, [sings Twilight Zone theme song]. Can everybody’s dad be non-communicative? It was a generational thing.
So let me give you a picture, here, okay? Let’s talk about the new relationship, how relationships are built, and what a healthy relationship is. Four “Cs” of what make a healthy relationship. And then I will give you a quick picture of what it looks like so you get a new polaroid picture.
The first part of a healthy relationship starts with commitment, not feelings. You want someone who keeps their word. Okay? The second part of a healthy relationship is built around communication. All right? You want someone who wants to be known and wants to know you, and has the skills to do that.
The third part of a healthy relationship has to do with companionship. What you want is a best friend. Not a hunk, not a model, not someone who has multiple surgeries or is trying to look fifteen years younger than they are. You want someone who is a best friend. You want someone that you can grow old together.
For most of us, sooner or later, wrinkles are going to come. Body shapes are going to change. What you want to visualize is in that rocker together. You know? Passing the Polident back and forth. Is the person you want to hang in there with? We always think that happens to someone else. I’ve got news! It happens to all of us.
And then the fourth one is someone that you can have, I call it “a mission” or “a co-mission” because of two of you. Someone who wants to team up with you to do something great as a couple, as a family.
Not that you’re just inwardly focused, we want to help other people. We want to have a cause. We want to do something significant. Those are the four elements of a healthy relationship.
And then healthy relationships are built with, first, a spiritual foundation; next is a psychological foundation; next is an emotional foundation; and then, finally, a physical.
So, I have got a little pyramid or equilateral triangle. And the base, the stability, is spiritual. Then psychological. And what I mean by that is the mental, the mind, the personality, you know one another. You can talk, you communicate. And then the emotional, your feelings, that is very important. And then the physical - physical intimacy.
That design that I gave you is right out of the Bible, okay? And so, if I was going to teach it in the church, and I’m not, but I’ll just show you in case you ever came, is what I would say is what the Bible says is God is the key and the Designer of relationships. And you have a woman and you have a man and the key, or the goal, according to Scripture, is oneness or intimacy.
And so, as a man depends and draws closer to God in his relationship, and a woman draws closer in relationship with God and gets supernatural resources, then the man’s goal is to serve the woman, to love her, to care for her, to see her become all God designed her to be, and vice versa. And he can’t do that because every man is like me. We are selfish. And every woman is like my wife. Selfish.
Now, that sounds harsh, but down deep, my wife wants her way. Down deep, I want my way. We can learn very sophisticated ways to bribe one another, to fake out one another, I will give this in order to get that, we can get as sophisticated as you want. But at the core of our being, the biblical word is that we are fallen. We have missed the mark.
At the core of our being is, “I want my agenda.” And you don’t have to learn this. This is not an educational process. You take two-year-olds. You get three two-year-olds in a room, you take two pieces of candy, put on the camera. What have you got? You’ve got a fight! We are born greedy, selfish people. I know we don’t like to hear that stuff but it is reality.
And part of the core problem in any relationship is that I want my way, she wants her way, and so the modern way is, well, let’s negotiate. What you all have learned is negotiating doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. Fifty-fifty doesn’t work.
See, I get supernatural resources and my goal is I want to give one hundred percent to my wife. I want to make her the happiest, greatest woman on the face of the earth. It is my calling and it’s a privilege.
Now, you say, Do you always feel like doing it? Of course not! I made a commitment to do it. Well, how do you do it? I learned to communicate. I am going to learn her language of love.
I asked my wife, “How do you feel loved?” And my job, I have a job description as a husband. “You tell me what makes you feel loved. Keeping our house up? That makes you feel loved? Taking out the garbage makes us feel loved? I’ll do it! I want to love you! Let’s not go through all that nine yards of bananas. Whatever makes you feel loved, that is my job description. Because, you know what? I love you.”
Now, I don’t have the power to do that, so I ask God to give me help. Then I want to share life. I want to be friends. And then I want to team up with her to make a difference in our world.
And that gives us focus and so we do it spiritually, that’s how we got to know one another, and we built a relationship so we had common, see, in the words of our day, what you need is a common vision and you need to have common values.
The reason many of you really are sitting in here, what you found out is as you grew, your vision for where you wanted to go as a couple varied and then you had different values.
And as those vision and values began to pull, you didn’t have any basis to negotiate, or you never articulated what they really were.
What I am saying is: Get a new picture about a relationship and say, This is the kind of relationship. I want the kind of man who wants to put me first. I want the kind of woman who wants to be loyal. I want the kind of person who wants to build on a spiritual foundation, that really gets to know each other, that has real emotional connectedness.
And then, by the way, God invented sex. He is for it. Just at the right time, in the right place. He wants it to be the pinnacle of the evidence of genuine commitment.
And, by the way, that’s when it really means something and that’s when it, actually, without guilt, without baggage. God desires it to be a means to communicate the deepest part of yourself to another human being.
And so, that’s a little bit different picture than the picture, at least, I had growing up. The picture I had, did any of you take notes on that one? Draw a triangle. Okay. This is an excellent picture, I want to say. Now, let me show you how I learned how to do relationships.
What I learned is you hang out places and you try and, depending on how a girl was built and how long her hair was and she attracted me, I got physically attracted. I said, “Mmm.”
And some of you women, first thing you learned was, “Uh, he’s a hunk! What do you think about him?” So then, so I’m physically attracted and so then we would play the little games and you put your arm around them the first date and you move beyond that, in our day now, within the second, third date, you’re in bed together. And you form bonds without any commitment.
And then sometimes it’s a one night stand or sometimes it’s a quick fling or sometimes it’s something that is all built on physical attraction. But then if you see there is something a little bit more to the person then maybe your emotions kick in. Yeah, I’ve got some feelings for this person. You know? Gosh.
And then you hang around for a while and if you’re in high school, people are still learning how to do this, then you go steady for three months or three weeks and you break up and you do it with someone else and you break up and do it with someone else and break up and do it with someone else.
And it’s a physical, emotional roller coaster. So, we learn how, early in life, to make partial commitments, break up, be physically attracted, and have all relationships based on our emotions.
So, however we feel, that’s how we respond. Just the opposite of commitments. Well, if it happens to have even a little more juice than the average relationship, you’re physically attracted, you’ve probably been involved at some level, the emotions are kicking in.
Then someone gets a little sharp and says, I should get to know this person. I’m going to start asking them some questions. “Do you read?” “Can you read?” And then you find out you like a couple of the same books or you have an intelligent conversation over a movie and, who knows, she likes chess or sports. Or whatever.
And so pretty soon you realize you like the person. So, you have moved beyond her or his body and beyond your teenage emotions. And it’s like, Oh, there’s a real person. And you start building a relationship thinking, Oh, gosh, you know?
And then if you keep doing that for a while, it feels a lot like love. And you think, Well, this must be the person. And so, one of you says, depending on your background, “Well, hey, you want to go to Vegas? You want to get a preacher or priest?” Right?
And then so most people say, well, now, it’s funny. After doing it the opposite of how God designs relationship, we want a holy stamp on it. Right? We have been sleeping together, we have been doing this, we have been doing everything our own way. But now when we are going to get married? I have always wanted a church wedding. Now we are going to pay four hundred, nine hundred bucks for a white dress. The symbol of purity.
The number of brides who are pure in our day are slim, slim, and none. And so then we invite our friends and then we say things. It blows my mind! We make vows to God that we don’t intend on keeping because the relationship is not built on commitment. You haven’t learned how to communicate. You probably have become, if you have a decent relationship, you became really, pretty good friends in the process.
And very few couples ever, one of the reasons why, especially after kids leave the house, divorce rate, the first five years, very, very high. Guess when the next highest place is. You guys know. After twenty to twenty-five years of marriage. Empty nest.
Do you know why? Because unconsciously, what you live for together, your mission was to raise your kids. Mission accomplished. Who is that guy? Who is that girl? I don’t know. I want a sports car and a blonde, personally.
So he goes off and tries that and, Well, I need to find myself, rediscover myself, go on a spiritual journey. Just read the literature, go in the bookstore and see the books that are being written. Why? Because, see, God designed you to have a mission as a couple to do something bigger than raising kids. It’s to really make an impact in your world.
Now, see, you ask me and I think, Wow, see, God has got this thing wired up. There are people who don’t know Him, there are people that need to be loved. My wife and I get to team up together and we want to see people come to Christ. We want to see their lives changed. We want to see our neighbors changed. We want to see kids really get help.
And as we pour our lives together to see that happen, there is a bond that occurs, and it builds our marriage.
And so all I’m saying, just for your consideration, is ask yourself, on your 3x5 card, write tonight, I am going to put my hope in, blank, for the next fifteen years. Okay? Just decide tonight what you’re going to do. Then, peace. I willfully choose to release or forgive my mate for all that they have done. And I won’t bring it up in my mind, I won’t tell another person, I will release them and let someone else bring about justice.
And, love, I am going to do it the right way this time. I’m going to get whole, I’m going to get healthy, and when I get whole and I get healthy, then I am going to do relationships a new way, learning how to communicate from the heart. And then I am going to find a future, but I am not going to have a future that is a repetition of my past. I am going to come up with a new picture of what a real relationship looks like that works. Does that make sense?
And so, forgive me. I didn’t grow up as a Christian. I never read the Bible growing up. I got out of church as soon as possible. But what happened is I got turned off by pseudo-Christianity. Since that time I began to read the Bible. I found some real people that were living it out this way. They were the most winsome, dynamic lives I had ever seen in my life.
And I met people married twenty years going out on dates and romantic and I’m thinking, Man, where do you get that? And so, I started hanging around with them. And, like my wife, I became a Christian, I asked Christ to come into my life. And I have lots of struggles. There are no magic bullets, magic wands. But that picture He has played out, and I have watched it happen in me and then in hundreds and now thousands of people at this church, who very imperfectly, walk toward Him, walk together, and see Him change their lives.
And divorce recovery, growing through divorce. The reasons you got here and the pain that you have does not have to be the defining moment in your life. It can be the turning point in your life.