Ever have a favorite meal made by “mama?” Or a sinfully irresistible baked treat you would just die without? You should know that behind that irresistible morsel or meal lies a well-concocted and meticulously implemented recipe that even the slightest deviation could cause a drastically disappointing effect.
Perhaps it’s time to look at the ingredients we are putting into our relationship recipe.
I’ve found that when all my relationships are producing a less-than-satisfactory feeling of peace and joy, that it’s time to re-evaluate the things that go into the relationship. I call it the recipe for a relationship.
Perhaps somewhere along the line I added:
- 2 sticks of selfishness
- 1 cup of control
- Essence of expectations
- A pinch of protection
- And one splash of self-righteousness for good measure
When we add these ingredients, we wonder why our relationships are unsatisfying and leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Relationships become filled with resentment, physical and emotional absenteeism, un-met expectations and flat-out disappointment! An expectation is a pre-meditated resentment.
People inherently want to feel valued, accepted and secure. So why do we struggle to give out exactly what God through Jesus Christ pours into us? Let me start by suggesting this: Stop putting expectations on others and only put them on Jesus. He is the only one who won’t disappoint you!
The greatest example of this in my life has been my marriage. We had just reached our 5th year anniversary. Ah, the year of grace! The year everything imploded! How could two people live so closely and yet break so quickly?
One day, that was it. We had just moved to Chicago, and my wife was going back to New Jersey. I was absolutely outraged. A month later I made up my mind: This marriage was over!
Actually, our marriage had been drifting apart for some time. See, when the honeymoon phase ends (yes, there is a honeymoon phase) you start to think that your way of doing things is the better way.
A divorce seemed like the only answer. I was angry and she was defiant. So I filed. I was never convinced that she wasn’t the one God had for me, but I was convinced that she would never change!
Confidants asked the question “Are you sure you have done everything you can to make this work? You don’t want to regret this for the rest of your life!” You know when you get alone with Jesus and that still small voice speaks to you? It was speaking to me very clearly. It said I had not done all I could do in my marriage. But guess what? At that time I didn’t want to hear what that voice was saying!
I was hurt, I was misunderstood. I was disrespected. And most of all I was rejected.
And all the while Jesus was saying, “I will never hurt you, I understand you; I value and respect you.”
When the emotional turmoil lifted for a moment, Jesus, in His lovingkindness, revealed to me how my motives and intentions toward my wife, however non-malicious, were entirely selfish, self-focused and manipulative. What He was desiring for me to see was that I was trying to get from others what only He could truly give me.
My wife’s words went echoing in my head: “Why don’t you treat me as kindly, loving and caring as those you minister to?” I knew she was right. I would never have been so brazen with someone on a prayer line.
Truth is, some of that was just very Pharisaical. Even in my zeal for Jesus I was constantly maneuvering, striving and working to prove myself. My true motives were not always sincere. Don’t get my wrong, I wasn’t a “monster” (all the time). But the first foundational relationship outside of my one with the Lord—my marriage—was built on unrealistic expectations, my needs and my desire to prove myself.
A recipe for the perfect mess!
I am, of course, making a much longer story short for the sake of this article. However, what I can tell you is that the entirety of God’s grace filled me with the revelation of sonship.
It was a week before we were to finalize our divorce.
The reality of Galatians 2:20 was no longer a mental ascent, but instead a reality that was branded upon my heart by the Father.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20, NIV).
The Holy Spirit immediately prompted me to write a letter. I took complete unadulterated ownership of my failures. In a moment my entire marriage shifted.
Now my marriage is thriving beyond my wildest dreams.
That was the first step. Then I needed to re-evaluate my overall relationship recipe.
Relationships are never easy. But as I counsel, I find people who get exactly what they put into them.
Let me share with you my new and improved Kingdom relationship recipe. It’s quite contradictory to what the world says, mind you, and truly it is not always the easiest.
- 1 cup of unconditional love
- 2 sticks of selflessness
- 3 parts acceptance, affirmation and availability
- Splash of safety and security
- Essence of encouragement
If you lay this recipe out on the foundation that you are loved, accepted and valued by God, you’ll have leftovers to share.
- Jesus first loved us unconditionally. So we can love unconditionally (1 John 4:19).
- Jesus accepts you right where you are without condemnation, so we can accept and encourage others (John 3:17).
- What if mercy actually does triumph over judgment? (James 2:13)
- What would happen if we truly loved others like ourselves? (Matthew 22:39)
- What if valuing others above your own self was really the most rewarding? (Phil 2:3)
- Jesus came to serve so that we can learn to serve others (Mark 10:45).
Whether it’s my wife or the annoying neighbor next door, Jesus calls me to love others without judgment and expectations, which leaves me free from living in offense. I am completely reliant on Jesus as my source of love, acceptance and approval. Anything else from anyone else is gravy (best part of any recipe).
This recipe is an award winner that is producing love, peace, joy and bliss in Jesus with whomever I encounter.