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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
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.
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.