Looking for Love in All the Right PlacesFebruary 6, 2012
Chip let the Lord lead him to a mate who shared his faith. Are you doing the same? Chip Ingram, author of Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships, talks to Dennis Rainey about his own attempts to find a love that would last.
Chip let the Lord lead him to a mate who shared his faith. Are you doing the same? Chip Ingram, author of Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships, talks to Dennis Rainey about his own attempts to find a love that would last.
Looking for Love in All the Right Places
Bob: In the early days of his marriage, Chip Ingram says he and his wife had a lot of things they were still trying to figure out about their relationship with each other. Here is Chip.
Chip: We didn't know how to express anger. We didn't know how to communicate; and it was like, “I love you; you love me. You're the most committed person I've ever met to God. I'm as committed as I know how to be. So, why do we make each other crazy? Why do you stuff your feelings? Why, when you're upset, I can't tell—you withdraw from me? And how do we express this and get this on the table where we can have the kind of intimacy we both want?” We simply didn't know how.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What do you do when you want to make things work, but you just seem to be driving each other crazy sometimes?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. Let me tell you a story. This happened a number of years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it. Our family got caught up in watching a summertime show called American Juniors. It was the American Idol thing; but it was for kids who were, I think, 8 to 15 years old, or something. It was fun, and we enjoyed watching it. It only lasted one season.
There was one guy on the show that we were really cheering for. One week, he came out and sang the old “Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers”’ song, Why Do Fools Fall in Love? My son, David, who was I think eight at the time, was walking around the house all summer-long singing it (singing), "Why do birds sing so gay, lovers await the break of day? Why do they fall in love?”
I remember watching him do this; and I thought, “Okay, is this really the thing that I want him to grow up thinking?—that falling in love is for fools. Do I really want him to be 18 years old and thinking, “I’m no fool. I’m never going to fall in love with anybody;" you know?
Dennis: Everybody knows music has no impact on how we think about things.
Bob: Yes, yes, you're talking tongue-in-cheek; I know. (Laughter)
Dennis: Well, we have someone here who has spent a good bit of time researching how the culture is creating our view of romantic love.
Bob: And he's no fool, either.
Dennis: He isn't. Chip Ingram joins us on FamilyLife Today. Chip, having read about the story in your book, I have to ask you to tell our listeners how you met Theresa and God’s great story of redemption. I just enjoyed this story. It’s a great story.
Chip: Well, we met—I was leading a campus ministry, teaching, and coaching. There was a bricklayer, trained by the Navigators, who put me under his wing for about seven or eight years; and we just believed that everyone is to make disciples. I never dreamed of vocational ministry. So, I was getting up early, coaching, and teaching.
Theresa came to one of our—we called them "rallies”—we'd open up this guy's living room and have, literally, 150 college kids—take out all the furniture. She came, and we met. The first time she came, she had these two little boys, with blue pajamas with the feet in them, you know—like, two years old. I thought, "This is unusual that this girl babysitting, obviously, is bringing these kids here."
Soon I found out that she wasn't babysitting. They were her kids. I was attracted to her; and since I was leading the ministry, I didn't get romantically involved with any relationships. She got in a Bible study. We became friends, and I started to really pray God would bring a man into her life. I saw the needs of those kids.
She was abandoned—was married to someone that was drug dealing on the side and then eventually got involved in another relationship. It went on for a year, and she didn't know about it. Back in those days, his friends actually came and testified on the grounds of adultery—pretty stiff laws back then. She cried out to God and was in the midst of that. Then some twins were born, and then he left. They never knew their dad; and in that crisis, she came to Christ.
I met her—I guess the boys were two-and-a-half; so she was about three years old in the Lord. She knew God like few people that I knew.
Dennis: When did you first realize that there was more than just an attraction to pray for her—that a man would care for her—and you began to think, "You know, I'd like to go out on a date with her."
Chip: Well, actually, I was in Caracas, Venezuela. I was on a ministry basketball team sharing Christ—23, 24—praying about the future and asking God, "Lord, You know I'm tired of cooking suppers. I'm discipling people, and I want to meet someone to do life with."
Dennis: Bob's not a good cook, either.
Chip: That’s right. I just meant, “I wanted a family;” and I began to pray. I asked God, "Will You please show me?" Literally, the Spirit of God prompted, "What about Theresa?" I said, "I can’t—not Theresa. She's got kids." “Well, okay. So—what about Theresa? Don't they need a dad?" "Oh, yes, I've asked You about it." "Would you be willing to sign up for that?" It was, like, "No!"
Then my heart just turned, and I just realized all the qualities I was looking for in a woman—she was very pretty and very attractive—but, by God's grace, I put all of that on hold. I said, "No way. I'm not going there." It was in Caracas, Venezuela, something happened. I wrote her a letter the next day. Then, all during that trip, something happened. I actually "fell in love," while we were apart.
Got on a plane—I landed, drove directly from the airport to her house; and then we started dating in a very—she would say dating—we never dated. All we did was read the Bible and sing songs and—I came from a background where we probably were a little—we pushed it to the extreme at times in not getting romantically involved. So, I moved very slowly; but God really honored it, and we did an amazing thing.
Bob: You had some counselors, some folks, who said to you, "Chip, God has marked your life. He's going to use you in ministry. This wouldn't be good for you to do."
Chip: Yes, especially, you know, think back 25 years ago, what divorce, in any circles. Now, was she abandoned? Yes. Was it by an unbeliever? Yes. Was it on grounds of adultery? Yes. And yet it was—I had people say, "Well, yes, the Bible does say that; but He'll never use your life. I mean, there are certain mission organizations that will never take you, and He's got His hand on your life. You can't go there.”
So, I really prayed. You talk about studying a passage. I read every book on the issue. I came to the point where I realized, you know, “I've got to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. I have to decide, before God, what's right, regardless of what people say.” We had a pure relationship—so I didn't have any sense of, “If I backed out, it would be guilt”—I hadn't defiled her or defrauded anyone.
I asked God for the courage to make the right decision, and He very clearly led us together. I'm not going to tell you it's been easy—those people that have blended families; those people that have been through hurts—within a couple of years—while I was in seminary, actually—we both had so much baggage that—you know, when you're making $1,200 a month; and you spend 90 bucks a week during one season of seminary for counseling, you recognize you have a need. But it's the best 10 or 12 sessions ever. I didn't know, and there are lots of issues. But Christ, being the center was number one; realizing there are no Plan “B”s—number two—it's a covenant; and then, number three—realizing, you know, God specializes in redeeming.
Chip: We're teaching on "Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships." You know, it's almost, really, Dennis, like—Bob—if God can do this for us—I don't know where you're at, but you're a candidate; you know? If He can produce kids who love God out of this baggage—
Dennis: You know, that was what hit me as I read your story, in your book. God is all about redemption, and there are a lot of listeners right now who have just heard your story—longing for a life that is marked by the Redeemer—that redemption that says, "You are useful. I do have a plan. I can use you."
When did you realize, in your marriage with Theresa, that He really had something special for you to accomplish? Was it right after seminary or was it later on in your pastorate?
Chip: I think it was watching—going through the process and realizing we had a lot of—we didn't know how to express anger. We didn't know how to communicate. By "express anger," we weren't yellers and screamers. We didn’t have some big marriage problem—it was like, “I love you. You love me. You're the most committed person I've ever met to God. I'm as committed as I know how to be. So, why do we make each other crazy? Why do you stuff your feelings? Why, when you're upset, I can't tell—you withdraw from me? And how do we express this and get this on the table where we can have the kind of intimacy we both want?” We simply didn't know how.
One thing we are—we're teachable. We set aside a day a week for a date. I don't know how many books we've read together, and I can't tell you how many of those "get away for a weekend" that you all talk about that we do. I can't tell you how many tapes we've listened to in the car. We worked; and, to tell you the truth, right now, we still work. Friday mornings, I still eat breakfast—every week with my wife—we still date.
This book is a picture of maybe learning things the hard way, and then my wife has such compassion for people who struggle. She has such mercy because she has been through such pain. Because of that, we've been involved with scores and scores of couples, who, I watch—believe lies, try and do life apart from God, suffer immeasurable pain and consequences. It breaks my heart, and I want to help them. I want them to know there is a right way. God is not down on them. He wants to put His arm around them, but you do have to do it His way. There are consequences of living in ways that the culture tells you that promise great stuff and bring destruction.
Bob: You address, in your book, Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships, the influence the culture has on all of our thinking, related to relationships, and romance, and marriage and how it's supposed to work. As you look back on the early years of your marriage to Theresa, was it marked by that kind of cultural influence?
Chip: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I never opened a Bible until I was 18. I never heard Bible teaching until I was probably 19. My expectations were so faulty because the lies are, “The way to have it is—number one, ‘Find the right person’; number two, ‘You'll have this mystical, amazing experience—flood of emotions, electricity through your body. We'll call that love instead of what it is—infatuation’; third, ‘Pin all your hopes and dreams on that person. They're going to fulfill you now because all the songs say, “I can't live without you, baby. If you leave, I'll die.”’”
Your whole world is in them. Now, since they're a human being, and they're like you, and they're like me, they're going to let you down. When it gets rough, then all the songs say what? “If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right.” You're just with the wrong person. So, you know, “Don't collect $200. Go back to square one; find a new person.”
That theme is in almost every single movie, song, billboard, advertisement; and it is a flat-out lie. What this book does is expose that theme—where it came from and helps people see, “This is how you've unconsciously been taught.” Even believers, as believers, “If you buy that and you're not feeling very fulfilled, guess what comes to your mind? ‘I guess I made the wrong decision.’"
Dennis: “It's the wrong person.”
Chip: “It's the wrong person.”
Dennis: So, “I'll make a better choice next time.”
Chip: Right, exactly.
Dennis: “I'm smarter now.”
Chip: “And God will understand. “
Chip: “He's a God of grace; right? He doesn't take this covenant stuff really seriously.”
Dennis: Yes, “I'll select a better person. This time there will be a better plan.” There is no different plan—the same plan—“Wrong person, divorce them.” That’s why we are meeting more and more people in the culture who have been divorced three, four, or more times.
Bob: I was talking with a single mom, a woman who had been abandoned by her husband. She said to me—I had been teaching on divorce and remarriage out of Matthew, Chapter 5; and she came up afterwards and she said, “Here’s my circumstance.” She said, “Do you think I’m free to remarry?” I said, “I don’t think that’s really the issue at this point.” I said, “The issue at this point is all of the hurt, all that you’ve been through. Have you dealt with that? Have you approached the subject of reconciliation with your former mate?”
I said, “I’m not necessarily talking about the two of you getting back together as a married couple, but have you dealt with forgiveness? Have you dealt with trying to repair?” I said, “If you don’t deal with those things, then the next relationship is just going to be a new soil bed for all of those weeds to re-emerge. It’s not going to fix anything until you deal with those issues.”
That was hard because there is loneliness in her voice. She’s asking the question because she’s longing for companionship; and yet, Chip, if you don’t deal with those issues, you’re not going to find the fulfillment you’re looking for, even if you find another person.
Chip: I've got a great story to tell you, if you want to hear it, right along this line—because some people are asking, “Love, sex, lasting relationships—how do I really get it?” What I've learned is there are a lot of “unbelievers” and people not going to church that are listening to us right now. You know, “Is this going to be that religious stuff where they just say, you know, ‘Jesus plus something—and I’m going to have this great relationship’? Do these people understand me?”
One of the chapters—I actually teach through exactly what you were doing. We ended up with a tremendous divorce recovery program. Sometimes 60, 70 percent of the people were unbelievers because a judge in town told all the people—a divorce judge, “If you want to get real help, that Santa Cruz Bible Church is the best place to go. That's all I know. I can't recommend it—church and state—but I'm telling you, if you want help—I don't know what they're doing over there, but people get straightened up.” So, we have this flood of people, twice a year.
They did a lot of great stuff; and then about week number six, they ask me to come in. Well, you know, you can imagine, “I'm an unbeliever, and now the pastor is coming.” So, I ask them, "Where and how did you learn to build relationships?—I mean, romantic relationships?" They kind of looked at each other. I mean, "Where did you do it? How does it work? And, by the way, is it working for you?"
You know—the looks on their faces—where, you know—their arms are crossed and, you know, “Where is this going to come from.” I said, "Could I just be candid and a little earthy with you and tell you how you've done it? This is how I learned." I said, "It starts out with the physical; doesn't it? You go to a bar, or you go around a corner, or it's in the office cubicle—and the physical is, “Hey, I'm a guy. I'm looking for that tight skirt, the tight this, the little cleavage here, the real tight sweater. Little chemicals go off and say, ‘Hey, I want to meet her.’"
Or, if you're a gal, it used to be the strong chin and the deep voice. Now it's the tight jeans and—and so what do you do? You start the dance, and it's totally around the physical issues. Well, then, if you can hook up a little bit, you move to the emotional. Something starts to buzz inside, and you have these feelings. If you can get that moving a little bit, you may sleep together—in our culture, that night. You might wait a couple of days, or you might take a couple of weeks or so; but it goes from physical to emotional lock, and then your brain cells go dead. You have these feelings you haven't had, and you spend money you don't have. Your friends and people say, “You've lost your mind. What are you doing?” You say, "Oh, it is love."
If that continues, then what do you do? Then you start to move into each other's social circles. So it's physical, emotional, social; and then some of your friends and family say, "That guy is bad for you." You say, "Oh, no. It couldn't be," you know, these great feelings. Or you might listen a little bit. It's sort of a quantifying factor; and if enough of your friends and family say, "Hmm, maybe this will work." Then, and only then, do you move to the really psychological character issues.
You start to get to know one another, family background; and if it still clicks then, by this time, the majority of people in America are living with each other—and they are test-driving this out. They don't know the stats that now all the—you know, “This is not a good thing for your marriage. It is not a good thing for your sex life,” and on, and on, and on.
Then they say—well, you know something? Everybody, no matter what they say, they want a sense of permanence. So, “Let’s make it spiritual. Let's find a rabbi, or a priest, or a minister, or a pastor, or whatever you call them.” Then, when they have the wedding; it's amazing. They want the church, want the organ, want the white dress, want the—you know?
As I'm saying this, I've got the whole room nodding with me. I said, "Now, is that how you do relationships?" They all said, "Exactly." I said, “That's exactly how I learned, too.” As I wrote them, I wrote them, in a way, backwards. I made a little pyramid, and it was an upside-down pyramid. Then, what I did is, I took that pyramid and I flipped it right-side up. I said, "Now, that's one way to do relationships; and, excuse me, the name of this is—‘Divorce Recovery,’ and my goal is how to grow through divorce. That way doesn't work. Would you be open to me talking to you about a way that really works?” Now, they gave me permission, as the pastor; and I talked about what you guys—the heart of your ministry is.
Spiritually, how do you connect and look for character? How do you become the right person? Then, psychologically, what kind of person is this? What are their values, their vision, their heart, their character? Then you move to socially—and now, I get to know a guy—when I see him, how he acts with his friends at work, his mom, his dad. Then I allow my emotions to begin to kick in and allow God to lead me. Now, you know what? “This is a fit,” and you get married and then you physically express it.
It's just—the Hollywood formula is the exact opposite of that. Our dream is to help people do it differently.
Bob: That's really what you've tried to point folks to in this book.
Chip: It really is.
Bob: You wrote this for unbelievers.
Chip: You know what? It really is. But, you know, to be honest, maybe I shouldn't say this—but I will since you guys are laughing and singing songs—I guess I can say whatever I want. (Laughter)
I don't mean this critically, but the average unbeliever and the average believer thinks exactly the same way. What they're not going to get is a long finger pointing, “Bad boy; bad girl. You really messed up in the past.” They are going to hear a God whose heart is broken, saying, "I know you want lasting love, and great sex, and real intimacy; and you know something? You're going about it all wrong. Would you please listen to Me?"
It really is written, in many ways, for unbelievers; but there are so many believers who are living the same way. The unfortunate fact is it will probably be as much or a greater help to them.
Dennis: The interesting thing is we, as Christians, have the answers. Our God created marriage. He is the One Who lays out that pyramid, like you talked about, Chip—of, first of all, becoming the right person, rightly-related to Him, growing as a Christian, learning how to grow spiritually, then learning how to help another person grow spiritually in an intimate relationship called marriage.
The problem is the Christian community just doesn’t get it that we have one of the greatest opportunities today to lead people to Christ around failed marriages and families, perhaps in our nation’s history. The family next door, the guy at work, or the gal at work that you know—who is about to split because they have no hope.
You know, a book like this provides a great way to put some quality solutions and literature in the hands of people who are hopeless, who didn't get married to destroy another person. They got married for intimacy, just like all of us did; but they didn't know the God Who created it and don't know how to make it work. They just need someone coming alongside them, Bob, who will explain it to them in very clear, crisp language, that's not religious.
Bob: Well, that's where I think we can help, too, because rather than somebody just sitting by and saying, “Boy, this is a shame. Too bad that something like this is happening,” and then just going on with your life. You can do something. You can get them a copy of Chip’s book, Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships. The subtitle is God’s Prescription for Enhancing Your Love Life.
You can invite them to join you and all of you come to a Weekend to Remember®. We’ve got those that are kicking off this weekend and continuing throughout the spring. You can host an Art of Marriage® event in your community and invite them to come. The point is there are tools; there are resources available that you can use, and you can get involved in helping your friends build a stronger marriage—and maybe, even introducing them to Christ in the process.
Go to our website. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the resources we’ve talked about. Chip’s book is called Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships. There is also information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways and about The Art of Marriage video event that anyone can host in their community. You can also find out where Art of Marriage events are being held near where you live.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the right link for the information you need. Or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329; that's 1-800 “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
Now, let me say, “Thanks,” to those of you who help make FamilyLife Today possible. This daily radio program happens because folks like you partner with us to make it possible. You help with the costs for producing and syndicating this program as we make it available on radio stations and on the internet worldwide. We appreciate your partnership with us.
Those of you who are Legacy Partners and make monthly contributions—“Thank you for that ongoing support.” Those of you who make a donation from time-to-time to help support the ministry, we appreciate you as well. In fact, this week, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, a couple of books—actually one for a husband and one for a wife.
These are books that provide some practical help in the area of romance: tips for husbands on how to communicate your love to your wife, and tips for wives on how to do the same thing with your husband. These books are our way of saying, “Thank you,” again, for your support of this ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.
To make an online donation, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I Care”; and when you make your donation online, we’ll send you copies of these books. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone, and just mention that you’d like the books we were talking about on romance. We’ll get those out to you; and again we want to say, “Thanks,” for your support of the ministry.
And we want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how we define love. Chip Ingram has some thoughts on that subject. He’ll be our guest tomorrow. Hope you can be back with us, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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