Pastor Paolo Punzalan recently mentioned me on his blog on relationships. I don’t know why he suggested me as having insight on this (maybe because my views are entertainingly controversial), but I’ve been getting some questions regarding relationships on my email, Twitter, and Facebook. So to answer all your questions more efficiently here are my thoughts on how to make a relationship work. I do have to make it clear from the start that I’m really no expert on this, so don’t go taking this as expert opinion. This is MY opinion on a subject I am historically known to be NOT very good at. But I’m learning, and over the next few weeks I’ll be posting 5 lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. It’s About What’s Most Important
2. It’s Not About What You Think You Deserve. It’s About Who You Choose
3. It’s About What You Got Across Not What You Think You Said or Did
4. It’s About Infinite Possibilities Not Minimum Requirements
5. It’s About Whatever It Takes
Ok, here we go…
It’s About What’s Most Important?
Of course I had to stick in the word VALUE at the very top, because relationships are about what’s most important to you or what’s valuable to you. A lady from the microfinance group I’m a part of emailed me the other day asking about some life decisions. I told her to ask herself, “What’s most important to me?” and to order clearly the hierarchy of importance in her life. Because what we value affects our decision making. When something is important to us we naturally try to bring ourselves closer. When something is NOT valuable to us we naturally stay away or forget something even exists. It’s like the kid who can’t remember his subjects but can remember the stats of his sports heroes.
It’s not a question of memory. It’s a question of value.
In a relationship, you need to be able to say that, after God, she’s the most valuable thing to you, and your decision-making, and your execution of your decisions (your actions) should show it. My dad always encouraged my brothers and I to make the big decision, because the smaller decisions become easy when you make the big decision. He used to say that it’s easy to choose what to wear to work when you’ve already chosen to actually go to work. In the same way, many people find it hard to do the little things for the person they’re supposed to love simply because they’ve never made a conscious decision to set her aside as most important.
If we’re impatient with someone it only means we value our impatience more than we value the person. If we’re angry at someone it only means we value our anger more than that person. If we’d rather sleep than drive for our wives or girlfriends it only means that we value how tired we are or our convenience more than them. This is hard to accept but it’s true.
When I am misbehaving towards someone, I can give every reason I think is valid, but the bottom line is I value my reasons more than that person. Because IF the person is MOST valuable, than she should be MORE valuable than my reasons no matter how valid they are.
Again it’s hard to accept, even for me. But when I think about the reasons why my dates never went past a few months the answer is the same, while I always try to make a positive contribution in the lives of others, at that moment, what was most important was… drumroll… ME.
Are You Ready?
I remember once being asked at a talk (why I get asked to talk on relationships is a mystery to me), “How do you know if you’re ready for a relationship?” And I answered:
When you’re ready to put her before you. When you’re ready to put her needs before your needs, her wants before your wants, her dreams before yours, her comfort before yours, her feelings before yours, her convenience before yours. When you’re ready to lay your life down that’s when you know you’re ready.
Of course I followed this up with, “And that’s how I know I’m absolutely NOT ready.”
Sometimes I come across people who are so insecure about where they stand in a relationship and I realize it’s because they themselves and / or their partners have never settled in their hearts that the other is most important. When what’s most important isn’t decided on, everything becomes negotiable. I can go out and get drunk because he offended me. I can text others since we’re not cheating anyway. I can gossip to my friends because he’s a butt. All of a sudden we can negotiate in our mind to do the things that will hurt the person because we have never really set them aside as valuable – meaning even their value is negotiable – they’re only valuable as long as they do as we like. I’m so grateful our Father is not like that. Because, while I have decided on my values, sometimes I find myself negotiating and rationalizing my mistakes.
But our Father, He doesn’t negotiate our value. He has marked us as important to Him even when we fall short, and that is why His love never fails. God’s love doesn’t change with our roller coaster of a life. It actually reminds me of Shakespeare’s very famous Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Love never alters. It doesn’t bend. It is an ever-fixed mark that is never shaken. When that’s the love you enjoy you’ll be secure.
Someday There’ll Be Treasure
Someday, I’m going to type her name on this blog, and like a white flag waving, that will signal my fall. When that day comes I have to surrender and say, “You’re most important now.” There will be times when I won’t get my way, but that’s ok, she’s most important. There will be days when I won’t understand, but I’ll have to trust, because she’s most important. There will be days when I’ll get mad (maybe a lot of days with my impatience), but I’ll have to swallow my pride, prepare a peace offering, and apologize to the one who is most important to me. Just typing this is making me dizzy, but then I realize I won’t have to worry, because I’ll be what’s most important to her, and as the Bible says: perfect love casts out all fear.