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How to Make Love WorkThe Guide to Getting It Together and Keeping It Together
By Michelle McKinney Hammond
FaithwordsCopyright © 2007 Michelle McKinney Hammond
All right reserved.
You are incredible, and You were made for love! David wrote, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Ps. 139:14 NIV).
As we consider all the pieces required to make love work, the part You will notice first is You. Not Sally, Mary, or John-just You. You may seem to be the most important piece, but You must note that each piece has equal power in the love equation. You have to give as much power as You want to receive. If one piece is missing or not operating at full capacity, love will either malfunction or fail to work at all.
Know How to Use the Part
To use the pieces correctly, You must identify and study each of them. In the case of the part called You, you'll need to do three things: know yourself, like yourself, and be yourself.
Umm-hm, I know that sounds simple, but it really isn't. It is amazing how many people really don't know themselves. Several years ago, I logged on to a dating Web site out of curiosity. As I completed the personality profile, I was stunned.There were dimensions of myself I had never considered! Things that were important to me. Things I hated. Things I liked. But most of all, who I was. The deeper into the profile I got, the clearer it became why my past relationships had not worked. I had chosen to go with the flow in each relationship without ever being clear about the things that were deal-breakers or deal-makers for me. The test forced me to consider and define what I had to have and what I couldn't stand in my partner and relationships. Knowing this up front can help You avoid experiencing unnecessary pain and wasting precious time on a no-win situation.
Knowing who You are is huge because if You don't know yourself, it will be hard for anyone else to get to know You. After all, how can You share your heart if You don't know what's really in it?
Don't do another thing or attempt to begin another relationship until You get to know yourself, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make a list of what You must have to celebrate yourself, your life, and another person. The nonnegotiables, the things you're willing to work with, what You can't stand, and what You can live without.
If these things don't come to mind immediately, consider completing a personality profile or a temperament test, or simply journal your rambling thoughts on love and life. Just do whatever You have to do to know yourself. This one big step will definitely clarify what You need to look for when it comes to love and help You locate it more readily.
Another biggie. I have to confess that for a long time I did not like myself. Then why on earth did I expect anyone else to like me? I constantly pointed out my own flaws when entering new relationships, thinking I would garner compassion. Instead, I got disdain. My suitors tended to agree with my list of flaws, even if they hadn't noticed these problems until I mentioned them! Take it from the voice of experience: if someone doesn't notice your flaws, don't You dare tell!
Humans don't handle flaws very well, but the Manufacturer does. Man looks at the outward appearance, but thank God that He looks at our hearts! After all, since He made You, He knows everything about You and is not rocked by defects. We all have them. Yes, sorry to break it to You-you're only human. This should be a relief to You! So clap your hands, dance, sing, and celebrate your official release from the pressure to be perfect because the truth is that You cannot be. You are not wired for perfection, but You are wired to love and to be loved in spite of your flaws.
Sure signs that You do not like yourself include low self-esteem, insecurity, a critical spirit, and the inability to accept love when it is extended to You. You will have to be honest with yourself to acknowledge that You struggle with any of these issues, but when You do, You will have taken your first step toward freeing yourself for love.
In order to overcome this debilitating state of mind, You must do what the Manufacturer recommends. He does not suggest but orders You to love yourself. Self-loathing is not an option built into your internal hard drive. He knows You can't love others until You love yourself. It is actually an insult to His creation when You don't love yourself because when He created You, He called You a good thing! In His mind, everything He creates is good. Therefore, You need to say over and over what He says about You until it becomes part of your internal programming.
Repeat after me: "[Oh God, You made me as I am on purpose!] 'You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works'" (Ps. 139:13-14 ESV). Now hug yourself and make friends with guess who? You.
Remember that You want another person to fall in love with You. The real You. Chameleons are lizards, not people. Trying to be anyone other than yourself is false advertising. Plus, it's hard work keeping up all that pretense. At some point, the real You will emerge, and You will have one hot mess if the other person decides that You are not what he bargained for. In the function of love, counterfeit parts will not work. They will only tangle the cord that supplies the power to love. So take a good, hard look at yourself. Are You true to yourself and your spirit when you're around others? Especially when you're trying to impress a potential love interest? Do You go against your own grain and make yourself uncomfortable by following the crowd to fit in? Are You comfortable in the skin you're in? Are You an authentic original or a cheap copy of someone else?
If You need help with being yourself, please go to the Manufacturer's Instruction Manual (the Bible) to see that He designed You to be an extraordinary expression of His love. The Manufacturer has made each person unique on purpose. Humans are a tribute to His masterful creativity.
The thing is, if You know yourself, like yourself, and understand why You were created, You won't find it hard to be who You really are.
How Do You Fit into the Mechanism of Love?
Let's examine this part called You thoroughly. What do You look like and how do You fit into the assembly of this thing called love?
You are crucial to the design of love. You see, You were created by love for the amazing, fabulous purpose of loving, which is why You crave love so much. You can't help yourself. Regardless of how many bad experiences You've had in the romance department, and though your mind may war against the concept, your heart still overrules and screams, "Admit it: You want to be loved, You need to be loved, You can't live without love!"
And that, my friend, is the truth. You cannot get away from the core of who You are-a lover. It is imprinted on your DNA. The Master Manufacturer crafted every fiber of your being to give and receive love. These actions are the greatest evidence that You know your Creator, "for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7 NIV). For this reason, no matter how gifted we are, He has no reason to be impressed unless we love well (see 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Love is the one program You cannot erase from your personal hard drive. It is part of the original programming. For millennia, men and women have lived, fought, and died for this invisible yet overwhelmingly powerful thing called love. How many songs have been sung, movies made, and poems and books written chronicling every aspect of love? 'Nuff said.
Obviously, this obsession is not momentary. It is who You are. Love will be your ultimate quest in life and your crowning accomplishment. No matter how much money You make or what You achieve, the bottom line will be how much You love others and others love You.
We become the sum total of the love we are able to give and inspire in our lifetimes.
Small wonder this one area of our lives seems the most problematic.
Please note that while it is perfectly normal for You to have the desire to love, You should never allow the desire for love to have You. If desire rules You, You will malfunction-make bad choices that ignore the Manufacturer's Manual-and short-circuit the possibility of receiving the very thing You so deeply desire.
Ah, 'tis true: "Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD" (Prov. 19:2-3 ESV). News flash: these verses are true for women, too. It's not God's fault. You've got to own your stuff-including your choices-if You want to make changes in your life!
So what about You? You, whom God fashioned and made for love? There are a few things that You must understand about yourself before beginning your quest for love.
You Have the Power to Invite or Repel Love
For the most part, You attract what You are. This truth can be painful to absorb, but it is still truth. People instinctively know what they can get away with in your presence. They follow your cues. If You don't demand commitment and respect, for example, then they won't give it. Get the picture? Make it clear what You want, need, and expect from the relationship, and don't settle for anything less.
Two caveats: (1) Never demand what You are not willing to give yourself; and (2) Remember that the man's potential should not influence your initial evaluation of him. How he begins is a good indication of how he will finish. In other words, what You see is what you'll get. Consider him an "as is" purchase.
You should also allow a limited time to chart diminishing returns when he's no longer on his best behavior to impress You. That's when you'll see the real person You may eventually live with.
So where does that leave You as You look over the terrain of your past relationships? What patterns do You see? What is the state of your heart? Where You are right now is where your own choices have led You. One of the most precious gifts the Manufacturer has given You is free choice.
If You are beginning to backpedal, violently shake your head, and say, "No, this is not true. I did not choose to be where I am right now," I urge You to consider this. Whether You say yes or no, You make a choice. Whether You say anything at all or not, you've made a choice. If You do nothing, You make the choice to do nothing. You can actively participate in the pursuit of love, or You can passively sit on the sidelines and watch the parade pass You by. Either way, it's a choice.
When people ask me why I'm not married yet, I tell them it's a choice. I could be married if I wanted to be, but thank goodness I get to choose when, where, and whom I marry! So do You.
The Needs of You
You Need to Admit You Need Love
In order to make the right choices, You must be honest with yourself about the fact that You need love. Again, needing love is not something You get to quibble about with the Manufacturer. You can relax. You have permission to desire and need love. This need is an essential part of your being, the essence of yourself.
Yes, You need to feel a profound connection to someone other than yourself. It was the Manufacturer who first uttered those profound words: "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18 NIV). That verse also covers women. Woman was made as a helpmate for man. This fact should be empowering. You read it in Genesis, folks, so it's official: even God Himself knows that men need help! And guess what? You need help, too.
If You are selfish, this revelation could be a shock to your system. Still, it is something You are destined to discover because selfishness always leads to loneliness. Needing love is what Genesis 2:24-"and the two are united into one" (NLT)-is all about. It is about connecting, living, and breathing inside of someone else. Hearing his heartbeat and his dreams. Being part of his internal life, where You exchange secrets and plans. It is the electric sensation of possessing someone and being possessed by him in a way that brings meaning to your life.
When two people can say to each other, "I am connected to you. I am better because you are in my life," light shines in their eyes. This connection can be present in a romance or in a relationship with God or a friend. The human desire for companionship is huge and becomes the driving force behind significant decisions and even mundane ones. This longing for connection is central to your makeup, your wiring.
Though You are designed to be a complete piece on your own, You can, when connected to the right piece, experience additional power operating in your life. King Solomon said it best when he noted that two were better than one because they had a good return for their labor (see Eccl. 4:9). Connecting to the wrong piece can short-circuit a fuse, damage your internal hard drive, and cause You to shut down for an undetermined amount of time-or even crash permanently.
You Need a Security System
This part called You needs a security system for protection. Everyone needs someone to rely on. A revolving door of relationships is unhealthy because it breeds insecurity, fear of abandonment, commitment problems, and a host of other maladies that affect every other area of life. Though You may crave variety and the stimulation it brings, You must feel safe.
Your inner circle-your security system-does that. Those people become the period at the end of your sentence and make the declaration of who You are a final statement. They reinforce and "name" You the way that Adam named Eve (see Gen. 2:23). The name he gave her added to the meaning of who she was and didn't take away from her original design.
If we look at the example of Jesus' relationships, we see that though He reached out to the world at large, He also focused on individuals He met along the way. In addition, He had a closer circle of faithful followers (the disciples) and a select group who were even closer (Peter, James, and John). Finally, there was only one who knew everything about Him-His heavenly Father, God. It was with God that Jesus was completely vulnerable.
This is the model for your relationships. You will have your acquaintances, your friends, your family, and the one with whom You share all. Notice that the one You choose to share your secrets with-the nurturer and guardian of the inner You-has the greatest effect on who You are. "As iron sharpens iron," family, friends or life partners will shape and mold one another (Prov. 27:17 NIV). They will help remove the rough edges if we open ourselves up to being transformed by love and partnership.
The person You choose to love and spend the rest of your life with will (hopefully) change You, name You, define You, and add a dimension to your world that did not exist previously. Contact with and submission to this person should transform You into a You that is greater than before. At least that is the Manufacturer's intention! Love will always take You to a higher place than where You presently dwell. It should elevate your mind and, ultimately, your quality of living.
Establish your security system-those on whom You can rely to help You stay sane and safe in the pursuit of love. Look for those who help You, as a part, run efficiently.
You Need Significance
Every woman on the face of the earth longs to feel that she's made her mark. She needs to feel that she matters not just to the universe or to her circle of peers. She must also know that she truly, truly matters to someone special, someone she can call her own. Go on, tell the truth: You need to feel desired by someone! You need to feel as if You add the oxygen to someone's breath.
We all can live without a lot of things, but air is not one of them. God breathed into man and made him a living soul (see Gen. 2:7). Without God's breath, he would have been only a mound of clay, beautifully fashioned but still just lying there.
Excerpted from How to Make Love Work by Michelle McKinney Hammond Copyright © 2007 by Michelle McKinney Hammond. Excerpted by permission.
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