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Relationships - The Secret
Brett Anderson ©2005

Okay, the question a lot of people have been asking was asked quite bluntly by one person who emailed me and said:

"So Brett... got any advice for us guys and girls who can't even seem to get that relationship??? The one that we shouldn't let slip past??? How do we get someone to realise that we're one of God's children and that they're probably guarding their hearts a little too well???

I think, in essence, what this dude, and a lot of other people like him, have been asking is 'So how do I get the girl?' [girls, please substitute 'guy' for girl so I don't have to write both every time, thankx!]

Now I'm not sure he is going to particularly enjoy the answer I am emailing him back in response, but my answer, in the shell of a nut, was "Don't 'get' the girl!" - enjoy being single... altho a lot more complex and involved than that and I will try and flesh it out a bit here as well because there is a lot more to it than that.

Firstly, to take it back a step, I think it's important to remember that in the more general sense (as in not just the boy/girl type) relationships are at the every heart of Christianity. Jesus summed up the whole Bible-at-the-time in Matthew 22:37 by saying that the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God withh all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and "to love your neighbour as you love yourself." So for God, it is always firstly about loving Him and then about loving people!

I am in Cape Town for two days to complete an advanced counselling course I've been doing over the last few months and someone said something today that really made me think. We were talking about sin and someone said that 'Every time there is sin, it involves a break in relationship.' Truth! always with God and usually with people, but that's the fundamental consequence of sin - it damages our relationships.

Then, I think it's important to consider, that if relationships are so important to God and so much on his heart, then that is a very likely place for the devil to set his sights on attacking if he is wanting to hurt God. If you take a look at things like the divorce rates, number of unhappy marriages, verbal and physical abuse, affairs, homosexuality and the kind of hurt, guilt, brokenness and betrayal that people are often left with even after dating relationships, then I think it's pretty obvious that he is scoring some powerful hits.

For me, the fact that Christians, for the most part, seem to have bought into the worldly dating model, which is generally aimed at short-term or instant gratification (do what feels good to me now, don't think about the other person or the longer term consequences) is a tragic and sickening thing. We should be leading the way in modelling a relationship system that is healthy and loving and that works.

For too long Christians have regarded their relationship lives as something that belongs to them and is separate from the place of God's Lordship over their lives - in terms of who we date (how many Christians do you know that are going out with or have gone out with non-Christians?) and how we date (don't even think I need to expand on this point cos you all know what I mean) and it is by and large leaving a trail of destruction in terms of broken hearts, broken people, and 'guarded hearted' people who have put up walls keeping everyone out because of how they have been hurt or abused.

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION

So, Brett, how do I get a girlfriend? Don't!

In my experience of living and speaking to a lot of people and just observing people, I have learnt that for the most part, relationships that are pursued (as in looked for) often lead to trouble and heartache.

For example, what often happens is that you meet a girl in some enforced setting (like once a week at church or youth or maybe leading on a missions trip or holiday club together - where so many people "fall in love") and you are attracted to that person and so you start pursuing them. Maybe you are lucky and you get the guts to ask this girl out and she says yes. And only then do you really start getting to know each other which is where I think the thing goes a bit crazy. But I'm sure a lot of you can relate - you got yourself a boyfriend or girlfriend and only then did you realise that you don't really know the person and you start getting to know them - which is often where trouble begins because by the time you find out that you are not suited to be a couple, chances are you have already progressed physically or emotionally to a point that makes it hard to admit your mistake and end the thing.

It makes an incredible amount of sense to get to know the person to a larger extent first, and then, if you feel some kind of connection with the person and the possibility is there that this person could be marriage material, THEN going out and persuing a more relationshippy relationship... you see what I'm saying?

SO WHAT AM I SAYING?

For me, I think the best chance a relationship has (and there are obviously exceptions cos sometimes things do happen the other way and it just does work, but I think more by luck than intention cos I've seen so many other times when it doesn't!) is with someone that you've spent some time getting to know in the context of friendship - spending time with them with other people and also spending some time with them by themselves and getting to see how they relate in both settings (and getting a much less pressurised and probly realistic view of who the person is)... and even better if you don't start out attracted to them, because then you are more likely to view them more objectively as they are, than with your romantic filters on thinking they can do nothing wrong (and justifying or ignoring it completely when they do) - I really do believe that the best love develops from innocent friendship (I can see the emails streaming in already!) and so I would encourage you to make friends and spend time with them trying to not look for anything or checking out each person as a potential partner - try to be chilled and take a step back (definitely easier said than done, but I really believe that if you get your motivation right and invite God to be involved in this part of your life it might be easier than you believe!) and just enjoy friends.

What concerns me is that too often people are so desperate for any relationship, that they are willing to take a bad relationship over no relationship at all, and satan loves that one. Let me just throw this in right here - that if you are involved in a romantic relationship with a person that you know you could never marry, I believe that is sin. God never created a playground for 'kissing friends' or 'friends with perks' or whatever you want to call it. Relationships are not there for a quick feel good, or to fit in socially, or to get your 'sexual needs' met - the ultimate end point of every relationship should be marriage and if you know it is not heading towards that way, then you should end it.

When you are desperate and looking for a relationship, the chances of you being hurt again are intensified (because chances are you're not thinking straight or objectively) and so you really need to try to get to a place where you can hand that over to God, trust Him that in time He will bring the right person into your life and ask Him for the strength and wisdom to be able to appreciate the bonuses of singleness while you have them.

THE POINT

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT WHATEVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." [Philippians 4:10-13]

Now, in this passage, Paul is speaking about material stuff but I absolutely believe that the principle is valid to relationships. It's all about learning to be content whatever the circumstances.

When you are single, enjoy it! What I've noticed is that often when we're single we sit looking at couples and wishing we had what they have... and the irony is that there are a lot of people in couples looking at single people and wishing they had what they have. What a WASTE OF TIME AND ENERGY! Be content in the situation you are in and at the same time you can be open to it changing, but don't be so desperate to want the other thing that you miss out on the benefits of single life and also what God can do for you and in you while you are in that place. Because I think God definitely works differently in the lives of those who are single and those who are in relationship - not that one is better than the other (although Paul would probably say it's better to be single... Peter on the other hand would probably give marriage the nod!) but it's that the dynamics are different and so different things need to happen in the different situations.

One definite is that you have a lot more time and focus when you are single (and probably money!) and that should be given to God and growing your relationship with Him. Take this time to really build up your relationship with God and to grow in Him and also to build up your friendships with other people - your guy friends and your girl friends. Basically take advantage of the benefits and be content - sure there will probly be times when you will feel lonely and wish there was someone in your life, but don't let it consume you or you will either be a very miserable person or else probably make a mistake and enter into a not right relationship.

Another way of thinking about it is like this - marriage, as I said, is the ultimate destination of any successful romantic relationship and if you are going to get married at some point then that's "Til death do us part" which can be a really long time... so why would you want to rush into that? If you get married you will probably have years to be with that person and years to be in a couple and experience all that stuff and never be single again... so why not rather make the most of being single while you have it and when relationship and eventually marriage comes along, then you can embrace that with all your heart and give it the energy and commitment it deserves...

CONCLUSIONARY REMARKS

Relationships are incredible things. They really are. And they should be given much more consideration and thort that we generally give them. They are an area that can be such a blessing and encouragement and strength in our lives - and they can be something that when it goes wrong can cause so much hurt and pain and brokenness and destruction. I know that a lot of you who are reading this will have experienced probably both sides of that.

Just like the rose and flower analogy I think I used before, I really believe that the most beautiful rose is worth taking a few thorn scratches and cuts from. It is worth getting hurt a little bit and getting it wrong a few times, before finally finding that relationship that is going to be with us for the rest of our lives. But I really believe we can minimise the damage from bad relationships by thinking smart and living smart.

Do I want to be in a relationship with someone I love who loves me back? Of course I do. But at the moment I don't have that and so I am absolutely content in being single. Absolutely. I thrive on being able to not have to consider another person right now every time I want to plan something or go out all night or have work to do. I love it when it's there, but while it's not I am goling to make the most of my time, my energy and my money. I am constantly going to put my heart into God's hands and trust that He will do any guarding that needs to be done (He did an awesome job with Kate and we're good friends now!) and just spend time focusing on building my relationship with Him and getting to know my new friends and family in Stellenbosch. And I'm not going to look for or actively seek a relationship. But if/when it comes... then Rad! Both hands! But til then,

I am learning the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, whether single or in a relationship. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

EVERYTHING!

Hope this has helped clear things up for some people and even given some of you a refreshed understanding of relationships and hope for the future. Whether you are single or not at the moment, commit that to God and thrive in it. If He finds you a guy/girl and brings him/her into your life, how much better are they going to be for you than if you made the choice, right?