By Randy Kosloski
When I was only eight years old, I was spellbound over a seven-year-old girl named Melissa. Her eyes were as blue as a perfectly chlorinated pool, but she also had horrible teeth. Nonetheless, as a young boy, I took God’s words to heart, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Melissa and I had a torrid one-month relationship. She ended up moving out of town and I never really got over her. I have been a romantic ever since.
Although I was far too young to understand the complexities of relationships—like it’s ill-advised to notice if a girl looks fat in a dress—I did understand that our relationship was fairly innocent. Neither of us took advantage of each other; we were in it for love. We had no idea what love was but we were open to discovery.
And that was that. Ever since, the roots of just about every one of my relationships have been about me. I have found similar selfish ways in most of my friends, as well as in one gentleman who came to me for help. We’ll refer to him as Richard.
Richard was a jigsaw puzzle. He was orphaned as a child, and raised by a questionable extended family. As a teenager, he lost his best friend in a car accident and many of his family members became criminals. Overall, he seemed quite calm and rational, but his childhood caused him to have issues of self-worth and belonging, although he tended to downplay this internal struggle. He came to me because he was having a hard time dealing the emotional wreck he considered his girlfriend to be.
Since it seemed that he chose this woman specifically because of her issues, it was strange that he sought help in dealing with her. He had a propensity toward high-maintenance women. Perhaps because their emotional imbalance made him feel like he had it “together.” In this way, he could play the role of being a solid rock for his partners, or their knight in shining armor. As a result he was able to darn a mask of strength and ability, although underneath feelings of inadequacy prevailed.
I believed that Richard’s report about his girlfriend, but I could not help her, since she had not come to me for help. I’m good, but not that good. Instead, I worked on Richard to try to get him to see that he was being selfish in his relationship, and that if he could change his contribution to the relationship, his partner may change as a consequence. His relationship was all about him—not about his girlfriend and certainly not about God.
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, Christian’s walk is made easier with a companion, but Christian’s walk existed regardless of whether he had a companion. Though Christian appreciated a companion, he was on his way to the Celestial City, either way.
In his walk, Richard was trying to focus on the struggles of his companion while ignoring his own issues. This made for a happier journey for him. Her stumbling made him feel like a mountaineer in comparison. Since I fear he had no eye toward God’s Celestial City, he was most likely just walking aimlessly. Perhaps, if he was a character in Bunyan’s classic tale, his name would have been Egocentric.
Richard was making a common relational mistake for men. His girlfriend was actually more of an appendage to his life, or a monument to himself, than a companion. A good partner can help in times of struggle and make pleasant times even more enjoyable. A healthy relationship can put both people on a noticeably higher emotional plane, but if the relationship becomes more about serving one person, than about serving each other, everyone suffers, and love gets a bad rap.
In his popular sermon series, Andy Stanley talks about the importance of placing ourselves in the context of eternity. He explains that if we fail to do this, we can fall into the trap of making our lives completely about ourselves. We have limited days on this earth and we need to use them for God’s purposes in God’s context of eternity. If we live primarily focused on ourselves, Stanley points out that we will not be remembered well. Although our reputation should not be our foremost goal, what we leave in our wake from this life can testify as to how we lived. Broken relationships and broken people do not speak well about us.
According to Denis de Rougement, one of the unspoken ideals of love is that it will help us as individuals live infinitely more passionately, and that somehow love can unlock this intense alter reality of life. But Richard is an example of why this is not so. Love takes work and if the work is done well then the wake of your life will reflect a love from heaven. Richard needed to realize that love is not about enhancing his own life, but about making more of the time he has, and about making the world better for sake of Jesus Christ.
Because Richard was an introspective client—and they are rare—he apparently was able to make some changes in his life to better his relationship. He may have been only stroking my ego, but it seemed that he bought into the idea that he could create something beautiful with his girlfriend, something that God would be pleased to see, and something that would reflect God to anyone who encountered it.
The Bible tells us that we should approach the Living God just like a small child. It wouldn’t hurt to approach our romantic relationships in a similar way. Like an eight-year-old child mesmerized by a girl with beautiful blue eyes and bad teeth trying to discover what love is. It doesn’t hurt to be open to direction and correction too, as we try to heed the first piece of good advice given to humanity: it is not good for man to be alone.