Didn’t you see that coming? Didn’t someone warn you? Did no one ever tell you about that?
Those were the questions that always came to Pastor Andy Stanley’s mind when speaking with many singles and couples about their relationships.
After hearing story after story of broken relationships, the Georgia preacher realized one thing: when it comes to relationships, common sense isn’t common sense at all.
Hoping to expel all the myths that plague relationships, beginning with “the right person" myth, Stanley began a series entitled “The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating” at his North Point Community Church this past weekend.
“I want to cast a vision on something our society does a lousy job of honestly,” said the influential pastor. “I want to give you hope that this can really work. You don’t have to buy into what culture tells us about relationships.
“Our culture highlights all the trouble, all the drama, all the affairs and all the junk. Do not believe for a minute that any of that reflects reality. That does not have to be your future. The handwriting is not written on the wall.”
Advising of a better way for singles, Stanley posed one question whose answer would be the key to a successful, happy relationship – are you who the person you are looking for is looking for?
Oftentimes people only concentrate on finding the right person, instead of becoming the right person in the process.
Highlighting the danger in that, the preacher revealed that when two people finally find Mr. or Mrs. Right, they would marry only to realize that they didn’t know much about relationships.
“The problem [in that] is, all they had was chemistry. They didn’t know very much about relationships because they thought, ‘If I meet the right person, I don’t have to be good at relationships. They’re going to be good at relationships, that’s why there’s the right person.”
“So they get together, get married, and then they have problems. Guess what kinds of problems they have?” he asked the congregation. “They have relationships problems, not chemistry problems. And they didn’t do anything to prepare for the relationship. They just thought love will keep us alive.”
What results, Stanley claimed, is a marriage not with marriage problems, but with two single people problems combined.
“The reason married people get into so much trouble when they’re married is because they believe in a myth. And the myth that they buy into is called the right person myth – if I marry the right person, everything will be all right. When I meet the right person, everything will be all right.”
“The correct approach,” he emphasized, “the approach that will serve you so well, is to decide, I’m not just hunting, I’m not just seeking. I am intentionally becoming the person who the person I’m looking for is ultimately looking for.”
Relaying a personal story told to him while preparing for the series, Stanley spoke of a young woman who grew up in a religious home, had a Sunday school background, went to college, graduated and came to Atlanta.
Putting on the “back burner” her beliefs, she immersed herself in the singles dating culture and was “living the life, having fun.”
One day at a social gathering, she met who she thought to be “Mr. Right.” After spending a few minutes getting to know him, she saw he was the total package – the looks, the job, and the personality. On talking with him further, it became very apparent that he was a Christian, who was committed to living out his faith in every aspect of his life.
Going home that night, she told her mother all about “Mr. Right,” gushing over all his qualities. But her mother turned to her after and said, “Sweetheart, the problem is a guy like that is not looking for a girl like you,” to which she literally fell to the floor in a puddle of tears.
“It was a defining moment for her as a single person. ‘That guy I’m looking for, he’s not looking for someone like me.’ Her priorities changed, her life changed, and she is going in a different direction now.”
Asking the congregation once again, “Are you who the person you are looking for is looking for,” the megachurch pastor urged singles to stop believing in the fairy tale that somehow when meeting the right person all the other things would fall magically into place.
He encouraged singles to put effort into their relationships, and not just base their relationships on chemistry and passion alone, which took no work and could be felt with thousands of other people at any given time.
Hoping as well that believers would “put the ways of childhood behind” and approach relationships more wisely, Stanley explained why adults should graduate from the “happily ever after ending” of most childhood fairy tales.
“In children’s stories, if you can just get [the prince and the princess] together, the rest takes care of itself.”
Some of you are dating, and some of you are approaching relationships thinking like a child, reasoning like a child, talking like a child. And it’s time for you to put the ways of childhood behind and [realize] this isn’t about magically finding the right person – that’s fantasy ... it’s not reality.”
“Do everything in your power to become the person who the person you’re looking for is looking for. That’s your best chance for success relationally.”
Looking to the Scriptures, the pastor mentioned that there is very little advice offered on finding the right person.
“But if you open the Scriptures and ask the question, ‘God, how do I become the right person?’ Suddenly, the pages of Scripture light up. The reason that shouldn’t come as a surprise is because God created relationship.”
“I want you to know it’s possible. I don’t want you to give up on that dream. But it doesn’t happen accidentally,” Stanley stated. “There is a way. You need to become intentional about becoming the person you’re looking for.”
Giving singles and those in a committed relationship a list of starting points, the North Point pastor referred to the famous “love” passage, 1 Corinthians 13.
“Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, love does not boast ...” he read one by one.
Understanding that many would find the list “boring” and opt to embrace the other extremes, Stanley warned, “What serves you well while you’re living the life is going to destroy what you value most later.”
“For those of you whose families were a mess, do you think maybe, while growing up, your family life would have been better if they’d been more patient with each other? If your father had been more considerate of how your mom felt and vice versa? If there wasn’t so much competition and one-up-manship?”
“Why didn’t they have it? Why didn’t they learn it? Do you realize that you get to get this right? You are responsible for stepping up and saying, ‘God, I want you to transform my character.’”
“If you believe in creation at any level, then you have to admit relationship is a creation. God created relationship, and God created you for relationship. You were designed for this.”
Emphasizing that all of the “love” characteristics required much effort, the megachurch pastor challenged his whole congregation to memorize the entire list (which they had printed out on individual cards) and learn to practice each characteristic in every current relationship now, to actively prepare for the future.
“It’s becoming that prepares you for great relationships.”
Pastor Stanley’s four part message series will continue this weekend, focusing on the subject of sex next for his 24,000-plus congregation.