By Tom Holladay
What does your idealized family evening look like? Mine might look something like this:
You get home from work at exactly 5:15—because the freeways once again parted like the Red Sea for you on your drive home. Everyone rushes to meet you at the door—even your golden retriever.
The whole family pitches in to make dinner. It’s pasta night at your house, so one of the kids gets out the pasta maker to make fresh pasta, another puts the homemade bread in the oven, and you go out to the garden to pick the tomatoes and spices for the sauce.
During the meal you have a scintillating conversation in which everyone shares the experiences of the day—and their deepest feelings about every one of those experiences. Then you clean up together—it takes all of about two-and-a-half minutes. While the kids finish their homework (with no help from you required!), you go to the woodshop to work on the handcrafted dining table and chairs you’re building. You are carving scenes from the life of Jesus onto the back of each chair. (The detailed faces of each person in the feeding of the five thousand are taking you a while.)
After everyone has finished their homework, you gather for family entertainment. Instead of playing board games or gardening together as usual, tonight you’re making a movie for the local PBS station on the wonder of family life. You laugh, you cry, you hug—it’s sure to win an Emmy. The kids then all go to bed, and you bring out the candles for a wonderful romantic evening. You and your wife make romantic, passionate love for the tenth night in a row—then read a Bible passage together and fall asleep in each other’s arms.
Ha! Here’s the more likely reality: You get home at 7:30 after fighting two hours of traffic, eat a cold piece of pizza, try to help one of your kids with algebra—a subject you last understood in 1983—then grab the remote control and channel surf your way to sleep. Your romantic evening is your spouse punching you in the arm and saying, “Hey, you fell asleep in the chair again. Stop snoring.”
The goal of love is not some false ideal we’ve conjured up in our minds; the goal of love is seeing God at work in our real lives. Why is it so important that we get rid of these visions of the ideal life? Because our idealized images actually keep us from experiencing the great things God wants to do in our relationships. We always have less than the ideal—so we’re never satisfied; we know we can’t reach the ideal—so we just give up. The false image we’ve built up in our minds keeps us from the real thing.
Back in the Old Testament, we read a lot about people worshiping idols. People trusted these false gods made out of wood or stone to give them a better life, better health, a better family. We don’t have little wooden gods anymore. But we still have idols.
We make an idol out of the ideal. We set up in our minds a perfect image of how things should be—and end up focusing on that. It keeps us from the real thing. This idol keeps us from making the little changes that can make a huge difference.
Paul tells us where the real thing starts: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (Romans 12:1 MSG).
Our temptation to hang on to an idealized picture of relationships can easily keep us from genuine joy in a relationship. Instead of idealizing, take the only life you’ve got—your ordinary, real life—and give it to God. Ask God to help you to love in a new kind of way. Stop waiting for some ideal vision to come true in your life, and just begin to love. Love now!
What would you give to radically improve, even transform, what matters most in your relationships? You can thrive in your career, acquire wealth, or build a great reputation. But if your relationships aren’t thriving, nothing else matters.
This 40-day journey will bring new depth and health to your marriage, your family, and your friendships. Saddleback Church teaching pastor Tom Holladay helps you explore and begin to practice six foundational principles including how to give your relationships the highest value, love as Jesus loves you, and communicate from the heart. You’ll be equipped with insights and a practical path for fulfilling God’s intention for all your relationships—even the difficult ones.
The Relationship Principles of Jesus walks you step by step through learning the foundational relationship truths taught by Jesus. Shaped after Rick Warren’s monumental bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, this book invites you to learn from the Master of relationships.
Tom Holladay is the senior teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Tom’s passion in ministry is to help people discover a love for the Bible and an understanding of God’s truth that changes the way they live. He also assists Rick Warren in teaching Purpose-Driven Church conferences to Christian leaders all over the world. Books he has written include The Relationship Principles of Jesus, Love Powered Parenting, and Putting It Together Again When It’s all Fallen Apart (2018). He also teaches DriveTime Devotions, a daily ten-minute podcast with more than 26 million downloads. He and his wife, Chaundel, have three children and six grandchildren.