People look at a fixer upper renovation differently. For example, some people:
• Know the house needs fixing – they kind of know what they want to achieve, but are not quite sure how to do it. It’s…well…overwhelming.
• Have plans ready to go…they just need a reputable builder.
As you know, God created you for healthy relationships, He wrote the blueprint for relationships, whether it is marriage or friendship. Most people renovating, call in a reputable builder to do the work. God is the Architect and Builder of healthy relationships. So, He is the One we call on to help us renovate our relationships.
In every ‘home reno’, there is:
• A plan of action
• A team
You can’t ‘sort of’ do a home renovation. If you lived in a house that had a renovation ‘of sorts’, there could be missing floorboards and exposed electrical wiring – it’s not a safe, healthy environment to live in. No one wants to live on a building site. The same is for the ‘relationship reno’; you can’t ‘sort of’ do it. This reno, like fixing up a house, requires full commitment, so you and your loved ones have a non-toxic, safe and healthy environment to live in (remember this series doesn’t address abusive relationships, please seek professional help dear one).
If you are married, you are a team and each one contributes, just like on a building site, each person does his or her part. But not everyone’s work ethic is the same…if this is true of any of your relationships, dear one, give your concern to God and ask for His divine intervention. Stay focused on God, like Peter, when he stepped out of the boat. But know this dear one, when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he saw the wind [adversity/circumstances], that is when he became afraid and started to sink, but dear one, he called out to Jesus, and Jesus reached out to Peter and caught him. God’s got you too. He is trustworthy!
Let’s do this!
You can’t unscrew a screw with a hammer. You need a screwdriver, but not just any screwdriver. You need to use the right type of screwdriver (e.g. slotted, Phillips, etc.) and it has to be the right size for the job. Just like you need the right screwdriver to do the job properly, it is the same with our relationships; we need the right tools.
“With the right tools, we can build stronger better relationships than we had before.” It’s time to put the first tool in your tool belt – love!
Love (the appealing component) includes: “commitment, choice, work, care, liking, kindness, affection, service, attention, compassion, and generosity.”
It’s ‘renovation time’ and yeah, it’s demo day!
BUILD: God’s definition of love (in your relationships)
DEMOLISH: The world’s definition of love (in your relationships)
You have God given ‘tools’ – these are your areas of strengths (think about things others have said you are good at in relationships). These God-given ‘tools’ give you the ability to build stronger better relationships. Let’s say something needs fixing at your place, it could be inside or outside. What do you do when that job requirestools you don’t have? Do you make do with what you have? No, you go and get the right tools. It is the same with our relationships, if we don’t have the right tools; we need to get them. But where can we get these tools? God made us for healthy relationships and He designed relationships, e.g. friendship, families, marriages. And it is God’s word that gives us the tools we need to help us in our relationships.
When you renovate a property, you follow a renovation process. The purpose of this edition is to help you ‘use the tool’ of love in your relationships. This is just a starter (it doesn’t cover everything), then you continue the journey, as you seek God, read His word and put it into action. To move forward in our ‘relationships renovation’, we are going to follow a three step renovation plan: design, plan and construct!
1) We’ll look at God’s design for each component, because it gives a clear and concise picture of thework we need to do in our renovations e.g. what is God’s definition of love?
2) We use God’s design as the foundation – the standard for living. The next step is to look at His blueprint (God’s design mapped out, to show how it works), which comes from His word – this is our plan for the renovation.
3) Construct: This is where it all comes together – the design and planning have set the foundation. Now it’s time to build, it’s time for action! By God’s grace you intentionally and actively use God’s design and plan and put it in action!
Additionally, we will use a framework to look at each of the four components (love, trust, respect and understanding). Foundations and footings are the horizontal plan for the building of a house. But it is the framework that ensures the house can be built vertically. Our framework for building up is:
1) Stay connected to God
2) Stay connected to others
Note: It is only by connecting with God first and opening up to God to allow Him to work in your life, can you then connect with others in a healthy way.
Stay connected to God:
• Read scriptures on God’s love – scriptures revealing God’s love for you. Receive God’s love. If you find it hard to receive God’s love, tell God about it and ask for His help, because dear one He loves you. Pray God will reveal His love to you so you will be able to understand the length, width, depth, and breadth of Christ’s love for you (Eph 3:18-19). We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
• If you need healing in your life, pray and ask God to heal your wounds.
• Prayerfully read scripture on love as you ask God to work in your life, e.g. Matthew 22:37 – “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind.”
• Ask God for a greater revelation of His care for you. Release your cares to Him, trusting He will take care of you, your family, etc. (1 Peter 5:7).
Stay connected to others:
Read scriptures that describe what real love is (1 Corinthians 13 in the Amplified version or NIV is a great place to start). This chapter is amazing! Personally, it has blessed me in good times, and ministered to me when I have been wounded. By God’s grace His words have ministered His love to me. I purposed to seek God in it all and not allow Satan to have a victory bruising and binding me. This scripture helped keep my focus on God. I repeatedly, prayerfully read it, meditated upon it and appropriated it in my life, whilst asking God to work in me. I can testify to the goodness of God, that as I am on the journey, He is faithful. As I brought my wounds before God, He brought healing, forgiveness and restoration (which encourages me as I continue in my relationships).
There are times, when for whatever reason, we don’t seem to see reconciliation. But God is in control and He knows the end result. God is trustworthy, but He does require us to do our part, e.g. we still forgive. You may say:
• “Why forgive, it’s so difficult?”
• “What is the point, when the other person is not changing and reconciliation might not happen?”
Dear one, God instructs us to forgive. The cost is higher if you don’t work through the process on your end (whether you regularly see the person or not). It ties you to the past, with all the pain and resentment, allowing the past to dictate to the present. The wound doesn’t heal, it festers and it affects your emotions, your health, and every area of your life, long term. This is a far greater cost.
If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Notice, the focus is not on the other person and how they act, but the focus is your heart and your response. Notice it says, “if possible” that means there are times when it isn’t possible. But remember, we don’t use this scripture to do what we want. We are not to go against what God says in His word. I had to make an ‘if possible’ choice, and it wasn’t bad and it didn’t go against God’s word. But as a result of that decision, something changed. I sought God and asked Him why this happened. He responded and said, “You did what you thought was right, but You didn’t ask Me.” Ask God:
• “What are you saying about this relationship?”
• “What do You require of me?”
• “What do You want me to do?”
Remember, God will never say something that doesn’t agree with His word and He says a lot about what our relationships should look like and who they should be with, dear one. God says what He says in His word for our good and if He said it, we are to be doers of His word.
• Pray you will be able to express love as defined by God in His word instead of the world’s definition of love. Ask for His strength, wisdom, insight, patience, peace, understanding, and compassion as you demolish the world’s definition of love and build God’s definition of love in your life and relationships.
• If you are married, pray that God would be the centre of your marriage and the centre of your home. Pray, His peace and truth would reign in your family. Pray that God would show you His ways, and lead you in them, with His truth and love.
• Pray your home will be filled with the Presence of God.
• Thank God for the strengths you have in expressing love (as you continue to work to keep them strong).
• Thank God for the people in your world and the strengths they have in expressing love.
• Thank God for the resources you have (e.g. His word) and the work of God (in your life and relationships) that will enable you to continue to build strong, healthy, satisfying, growing relationships with the people in your world.
• Pray God will help you (and your loved ones) grow in the areas of love that are out of balance in your life and out of balance in your relationships. Pray God will show you (and your loved ones), which elements/characteristics of love need nurturing and growth.
• Pray God’s love will be in you flowing out to others.
• Pray God will show you His love for the people in your world.
• Thank God for what He is going to do in your life and in your relationships!
Renovation process step one: DESIGN
Many say, love can turn to hate, but there is no hate in God’s definition of love. This is the world’s view, and so is the view, you can fall in love and out of love. But, dear one, we aren’t to base our love on the world’s version of love.
When Canadian Mounties Police trainees are trained in anti-counterfeiting work, they don’t focus on counterfeit money. Could you imagine if they made the counterfeit money the focus of their study? They would study the counterfeit, know every detail about it, and address that particular counterfeit issue. In the meantime, another group produces a different counterfeit currency, and then more fakes are produced, and they would always be behind the counterfeiters and at their mercy. But the Canadian Mounties know there is only one genuine $20 note in existence. So they study the real deal, and they get to know every detail of the genuine money. Their focus is genius, because once you know everything about the original, you can then more easily spot a fake. What you choose to focus on makes all the difference.
We are to have the original true definition of love. God is love. He is the author of love. Therefore God defines love, not the world. We need to go to God’s word to find the true definition of love, here’s some scriptures on God’s love for you to get you started:
• You were made in His image (Genesis 1:27) and He created you for relationship with Him – He knew you before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:5) and He called you from the womb (Isaiah 49:1), you are wanted, you were planned to be born, you are chosen and God lavishes His love on you (1 John 3:1)
• You are of great value to God, He sent His Son Jesus for you (John 17:23), because He loves you – He gave His Son, Jesus for you (John 3:16), and “Jesus indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of His hands (Isaiah 49:16)
• You are fully known and loved by God (Psalm 139:1, 1 John 4:10)
• God pursues you – He loves you with an everlasting love & draws you with loving kindness (Jeremiah 31:3) While we were sinners, in rebellion against God, God demonstrated His love – love that is unfailing, unconditional, unending and amazing. The One Who is Love, gave when we did not deserve it -that is nothing like the world’s version of love.
Renovation process step two: PLAN
Matthew Henry states, 1 Corinthians 13 depicts, “love in its fullest and most extensive meaning, true love to God and others, which grows out of devotion to God.” True love, real love comes from God and grows out of devotion to God.
“In 1 Cor. 13 the apostle Paul describes and commends the properties and effects of love…so that we may know if we have it”…or if we need to seek God for it…“and not rest until it is ours”. We are now going to continue to look at what God’s love is (design), and what it looks like when it is mapped out for action (plan), and then we can put it into action (construct). For it is God’s love in us, God’s work in us that enables us to love His way.
Love (God’s love in us):
Is Patient: it can endure injury without being filled with resentment, indignation or revenge. It waits for the good in others.
Is Kind: the heart is large and the hand is open – ready to do good. Love gives.
It does not envy: we rejoice with the good of others, e.g. qualities, giftings, honours, homes, etc. Envy wants ill will, but the mind that is determined to do good, can only do good.
It does not boast, is not proud and does not dishonour others: One, who loves, doesn’t puff him or her self up with self conceit and arrogance. One who loves doesn’t trample on others. One who loves doesn’t ensnare or tease with the purpose to tear down and humiliate. But instead, love esteems and values others. Love does not offer falseness or flattery (as it is without truth or goodness). Love calms – it does not anger.
It does not pass the bounds of decency: Love doesn’t do anything inappropriately or out of place. Love doesn’t cross boundaries. Love is good will to others. Love respects. Love is kind.
It is not self-seeking: love is an enemy to selfishness. Love doesn’t seek it’s own praise, honour, profit or pleasure (human nature due to the Fall). This doesn’t mean you disregard and neglect self or allow yourself to feel worthless. You are God’s creation – His workmanship, you dear one are precious. There is to be a balance – there is a reasonable love of self, acknowledged in the Bible, e.g. ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ But the point here is, love does not promote self and want it’s own way, focusing on one’s rights, to the detriment, hurt or neglect others.
It is not easily angered: “where the fire of love is kept in, the flames of wrath will not easily kindle, nor long keep burning. Love will never be angry without a cause, and will endeavour to confine the passions within proper limits, that they may not exceed the measure that is just, either in degree or duration. Anger cannot rest in the bosom where love reigns. It is hard to be angry with those we love, but very easy to drop our resentments and be reconciled.”
It keeps no record of wrongs: Love doesn’t hold malice or seek revenge. It doesn’t guilt charge upon others. It doesn’t hold on to wrongs.
Does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: Love does not take delight in hurting others. Love is not jealous or suspicious. Love does not expose faults and hurt others. Love isn’t entertained by the downfall of others. Instead love rejoices to see others do well and grow in God.
Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres: “Love doesn’t just believe anything, for love and wisdom dwell together. For example, when we forgive someone, it doesn’t mean we let them do the same wrong over and over again – we use wisdom and we have healthy boundaries. But love will make the best of things, it will judge well, believe well and when it can’t believe well, it hopes well.” A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13: 34-35).
Never fails: Love bears up under anything and everything that comes its way. Love doesn’t weaken – it’s duration and continuance is without end, it is permanent and lasting.
Renovation process step three: CONSTRUCT Let’s take a closer look at some characteristics of real love in action, as detailed by counsellor H.Norman Wright, and what it looks like when they are expressed in relationships:
Safety and security: When you are in a healthy relationship you feel safe and secure and you can be you with that person, whether it is a spouse, friend, someone you are dating, etc.
Q: Who is someone who makes you feel safe and secure? How do they do this? How do you make others feel safe and secure? What can you learn from others to make those you care about feel safe and secure?
Support: People both need and want support in their relationships. A supportive relationship means that you do life together; you are not facing the world alone. You can depend on others to stand with you in the tough times. But we also need and desire support in the everyday times and in the good times. In the everyday or good times, you support by encouraging others, helping them to dream and grow to the best of their ability (even if it means surpassing your level of growth or ability). We use our strengths, capabilities and skills to lift others up. This means we first have to identify the strengths of others, and build on those qualities to help others succeed. This also means looking for the best in others, believing in others, until they are able to believe in themselves and start succeeding. We are to both give support and to receive support.
Q: Do you have supportive people in your life? How do they support you?
Q: If you are in a relationship (dating, engaged, married), in what way do you support each other?
Sense of Belonging: We all have a need for belonging, to be included and accepted by others. We desire to feel significant and accepted. When you feel accepted you can open your heart and world to others and when they feel accepted, they can do the same. It is easy to get along with people who accept you, people who open their hearts to you and include you in their lives. You can share your heart, your hurts, dreams, thoughts, and feelings without fear of being put down, rejected or laughed at.
Q: Who in your life gives you a sense of belonging?
Q: How do you give others a sense of belonging?
Care: We all need care. And in our closest relationships we are invited to a special place in other’s hearts – we are nurtured. We express care through our words and actions. We move outside our comfort zone to benefit those we care about because we are motivated by real love. This means extending yourself with a positive attitude.
Q: How can you demonstrate care when you are asked to do something? In what situations would you value care being demonstrated to you?
Acceptance: We all want to be accepted. When we accept others for who they are, we free them from the pressure of being changed and moulded into the person we want them to be. Remember, we can’t change others, only ourselves. How do you feel, when people try to change and pressure you? Others feel that too, when you try to do it to them. It is God alone who does a transforming work in your life and in others. You can pray for others, from a heart that seeks God’s will and with pure motives. Accept and value the people in your world.
Q: How do the people in your world show they accept you? How do you show you accept others?
Q: If you are in a relationship, how does your partner express acceptance of you? How do you show your partner you accept them for who they are?
“It’s love’s very nature to express itself” – Affection is love shown.
We are now going to look at the Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Although they don’t cover every aspect of love, it will help you express love to others.
Five Love Languages to express love emotionally:
Words of Affirmation: The words may focus on how they look, something they did for you, their personality, or anything you admire about them.
Receiving Gifts: The gifts need not be expensive. The gift says, “They were thinking about me.”
Quality Time: Giving the person your undivided attention. It may involve extended conversations or doing a project together.
Acts of Service: Doing something you know they would like for you to do, such as washing dishes, vacuuming the floors, or helping a child with a project.
Physical Touch: Hugs, kisses, high fives, etc.
It is important to know:
• Your love language
• Your loved ones love languages
Three questions will help you discover your love language:
1) How do I typically express love to others?
2) What do I complain about most often?
3) What do I request most often?
Your love language might not be the same as those you care about. How about sitting down and chatting with them to identify their love language? Try guessing first if you like, but remember this is an exercise to build relationships, not walls. And then learn to speak those love languages – it helps them feel loved and appreciated by you!
Dr Gary Chapman, shares we each have an emotional love tank (you can talk about this with your partner, family & friends. For your children, use a visual aid to explain) and he states it is good to periodically ask:
• “On a scale of 0-10, how full is your love tank?”
• If the answer is low, you can ask, “What could I do to help fill it?”
• How do you know I love you?
• When did you most recently feel I was loving towards you?
It is important to ask these questions and hear what the response is without disputing the answer. Remember your aim is to improve relationships, not build walls. Offer non-judgemental acceptance of the answer, because this is not disputing whether you love the person or not (of course you love them), the questions are asking, “Do I know and speak your love language?” “Am I speaking your love language effectively?” “Do you feel my love helps to fill your love tank?”
It’s a matter of identifying the love language of your partner, family members, friends, etc. and expressing your love to them by using their love language. And for your loved ones to do the same for you, but remember, God transforms people, we only work on ourselves, not on others. You can ask for (not demand) what you need. Additionally, pay attention and notice how your loved ones are trying to love you better and let them know you appreciate it.
Dr Chapman states, we have a primary love language and a secondary love language. So it’s important to learn each love language that is meaningful to your loved ones, e.g. they could have a love language combo – identify (or ask) their love languages to help you express love in a way that is meaningful to them. This fills their love tank- they feel the expression of your love. For example,when your child says, “Da-aaad or Mu-uuum can you play with me?” Instead of possibly thinking…oh, I wish I had a moment of peace. Instead of viewing this as“nagging.” Change how you see it – have you thought that your child’s love language is actually quality time, and this is how his/her love tank is filled?
Renovating any fixer upper takes time; it’s not going to change over night. Be patient, and celebrate successes! At times, it may be hit and miss, maybe more miss than hit, but that is the learning process, go easy on yourself and the people in your world, you are learning (e.g. think about a baby he/she doesn’t learn to walk in just one step), persevere and as you do, it will get better and easier.
Here’s a recap on the practical tips to help you intentionally love better:
• Learn the love languages and speak them
• Notice how your loved ones need their love tank filled (ask if you need to)
• Let your loved ones know how to fill your love tank (don’t demand from others, or expect more from others and less from yourself)
• Stickability – just like renovating a fixer upper takes time, and is not renovated overnight. It takes time to change things that have been established for years (if you DO different, you GET different). Persevere, don’t lose heart, dear one. Each step is progress, if you have a set back, dust yourself off and get up again. By God’s grace, strength, divine intervention, you and your loved ones can do this. And just like it takes a team to renovate a house, you and your loved ones are a team (you are on the same team, you aren’t opposing teams), each one playing their part to help renovate and build strong healthy relationships.
All the best as you continue on the journey using love to help you build strong healthy relationships! See you next time, when we put the second tool in your tool belt – trust!