By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
In The City of God, Augustine expressed a universal human feeling when he said, “O Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and we are restless until we find our rest in thee.” Without an authentic relationship with God, we are left empty and detached. There is in all of us, at the very center of our lives, an aching, a burning in the heart that is deep and insatiable. Most often we try to quench that yearning with a human relationship. We try to fill the gap in our existence with a friend or lover. But no human relationship—no matter how wonderful—can ever complete us.
In the first chapter of our book Real Relationships we explored the “compulsion for completion” that every person brings to an important relationship. And we discovered that this compulsion can never be fulfilled at the human level. It is too much to expect from another person. We may enjoy moments of heart-to-heart connection and even ecstasy with another human being, but these feelings of completion are just that—feelings. And feelings are always fleeting. The wholeness we long for in human contact is forever elusive. Why? Because human beings can never make us whole. In short, that’s why we need God’s love. Only God ultimately satisfies our compulsion for completion. A permanent sense of wholeness is found exclusively in an authentic relationship with God. Every human relationship is but a mere shadow of this one.
What’s more, in the absence of an authentic relationship with God we will always come up empty in every other relationship. It is God who satisfies our ultimate longing for belonging and gives us meaning in our lives. It is God who helps us rise above selfishness to take care of others. It is God who fulfills our deepest needs when the one person on earth we were counting on—a friend or a family member—lets us down. And it is God who empowers us to keep moving forward in a relationship that needs help and healing.
How does God satisfy our longing for belonging? How does God help us rise above self-centeredness? The answer is found in who God is. Remember? God is love. And here is a relational principle that is more powerful than dynamite: We cannot love until we first experience love. This is why parents need to bathe their little ones in acceptance, affirmation, care, and kindness. The more love we experience in our critical early years, the more mature and healthy our love for others will be as adults. It’s a universal tenet. And it’s grounded in our innate need for God.
Love is not something we conjure up through effort, positive thinking, or even prayer. Love is a response to being loved. As Scripture says, “We love because he first loved us.” We don’t love because we should or because we are instructed to, but because we are loved. Most of us are used to looking at love as a duty. We don’t give much thought to being loved by God as the means to loving others. How many sermons have you heard on the virtue of being loved?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Ethics, suggests that in trying to understand that God is love, we must not take the word love as our starting point, but we must begin with the word God. As the apostle John says, only the person who knows God can know what love really is. “It is not,” Bonhoeffer adds, “that we first of all by nature know what love is and therefore know also what God is.” In other words, no one can know what love really means unless he or she first knows God through the experience of faith.
So, who needs God? All of us. Not because God’s love demands change; but because it produces change. We’ll never find what we’re looking for in human relationships until we first find a transforming and authentic relationship with God.
Adapted from Real Relationships: From Bad to Better and Good to Great by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott. Click here to learn more about this title.
In this updated edition, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott dig below the surface to the depths of human interactions, offering expert advice and practical tools for improving the most important aspect of human life: relationships.
Designed for college students, young adults, singles, and dating couples, this cutting-edge book teaches the basics of healthy relationships, including friendship, dating, sexuality, and relating to God. Newly updated and expanded to include the latest research on relationship building and vital information on social networking, it provides readers with proven tools for making bad relationships better and good relationships great.
A workbook is also available (sold separately), which contains dozens of self-tests and assessments that will help readers determine their relational readiness, the health of the home they grew up in, their understanding of gender differences, and much more. Real Relationships and the Real Relationships Workbook furnish an honest and timely guide to forming the rich relationships that are life’s greatest treasure.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are #1 New York Times bestselling authors and founders of the revolutionary Deep Love Assessment. Their bestselling books include Crazy Good Sex, The Good Fight, Love Like That, and the award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. They have appeared on CNN, Today Show, Good Morning America, The View, and Oprah. They live with their two sons in Seattle. Visit LesandLeslie.com to learn more.