Wouldn't it be great if, starting today, you could take some positive steps toward that deep relationship you've always wanted? Let's take a look at two opposing models for achieving a loving, lasting bond with another person.

First, there's the model we're all familiar with, the one that's as old as Lawrence Olivier, as recent as Ally McBeal. It's Hollywood's model.

Hollywood Says

  • Find the right person
  • Fall in love
  • Fix your hopes and dreams on this person for your future fulfillment
  • If failure occurs, repeat steps 1, 2, 3.

The premise of this formula is clear: if you fail, you must not have found the right person. Much like a bottle cap sweepstakes game, if you don't win... sorry! Try again.

How well does it work? You and I both know the answer to that. The divorced population is the fastest growing marital category in the US, and the fallout is huge. The impact of fractured relationships on children, the anguish, the hurt, the emotional wounds, not to mention the economic impact on both parties, is painfully obvious. Now let's move to another perspective, and take a look at the model created by the One who thought up relationships in the first place.

God 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 as a fragrant aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2

First, there's a command.

Be imitators of God. What does this look like? For a more detailed picture, let's start a few verses back, at chapter Ephesians 4:31-32. Here we have instructions for putting on a new life in Christ as we relate to others. Get rid of attitudes that tear down and hurt, Paul says. Treat each other as God treated you when He extended His endless supply of grace and forgiveness to you, even at great cost to himself.

Is the focus here on finding the right person? Is it about molding someone else into the person you want them to be? No.

The Key to a Right Relationship is Not Finding the Right Person, But Becoming the Right Person
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, in their book, Relationships, outline what they call "The Compulsion for Completion."

"If you attempt to build intimacy with another person before you've done the hard work of becoming a whole and healthy person, every relationship will be an attempt to complete the wholeness that you lack and end in disaster." (Relationships, p. 20)

In other words, if our identity is not secure in Christ, if we are still looking to others to make us feel secure, complete or "okay," our relationships will never be healthy and strong. This is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to understand. Contrary to the pop philosophy of Jerry McGuire, the most romantic thing you can say to someone is not "you complete me." If you must be completed by another person, you will find that whatever they have to give you will never be enough. Only God, through His Son and through the Holy Spirit, can provide what each of us need to be complete. When we are whole and secure in Him, then we can approach a relationship in a healthy way.

Next comes the command for how we are to relate to one another.

Walk in love. Notice Paul doesn't say, "fall in love." He's talking about an intentional, sacrificial love that wills and acts what is best for its object.

God's way is very hard, but it's very effective. He tells us to:

  • Become the right person (mimic God)
  • Walk in love
  • Fix your hope on God and seek to please Him through this relationship
  • If failure occurs, repeat steps 1, 2 and 3.

Failure will occur. When it does, the question must be: "Am I being who I should be? Am I walking in love?" It's not time to give up; it's time to go back to square one.

Here is a crucial point. The goal of relationships is not fulfillment and self-actualization. It's not about discovering yourself, filling your need, meeting your desire. The goal of relationships is to please God. Right relationship with Him is food for our soul, and wherever else we will search, we will ultimately find that nothing else satisfies. The beautiful byproduct, when we are pleasing him in our horizontal relationships, will be deeper intimacy than you ever imagined.

You don't have to be a statistic. You don't have to be afraid to make a commitment. There is a supernatural way to do relationships that will leave a legacy of faith. The price tag is too high, the risk too great, to do it Hollywood's way.

Used with permission. Copyright 2002 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.