Designed to Go All the Way
Is she the one? Four words that shaped my hope. My wish. My prayer.
Her name was Kelli. She was more beautiful than words could describe. Her tan was perfectly golden. Her blond hair could’ve starred in any shampoo commercial. Her smile stopped me in my tracks. And her legs… I’ll just say, praise God for legs!
Kelli was wildly popular, completely feminine, yet also athletic. Confident, yet humble. Exciting, yet pure. Every guy I knew liked her.
I loved her.
Kelli dominated my thought life. Will she go out with me? Go with me? MARRY ME? Have my children? Live with me in a house with a white picket fence? You know, for our dog. Not a chick dog, like a Shih Tzu. A real dog. Maybe a black Lab. Or a German shepherd. Named Joe…
In my daydreams I was always the hero, rescuing Kelli from attackers using my finely honed nun-chucks skills. I protected her while stranded on a desert island. I kept her warm during a dangerous blizzard. All my fantasies ended the same: Kelli fell in love with me, then kissed me until I couldn’t breathe. It was our destiny to be together. Forever. (Can you hear a Luther Vandross love song playing softly?)
Maybe my imagination was getting ahead of me. After all, she’d never spoken to me. She didn’t even know my name. And, well, we were both in seventh grade. But trifling details couldn’t weaken her magnetic pull. My life orbited around her. The mounting pressure seemed too much for my heart to bear.
Could she be “the one”?
ON THE WAY TO ONE
You’re probably not in the seventh grade (and glad you never have to return to junior high hell again). But that longing for the one is virtually universal. You’ve yearned for the one to be part of your life–your soul mate, bound by passionate affection and a forever vow.
Does a fulfilling, lifelong commitment exist in your future? You hope so, but maybe you’re not sure. When someone cute moves to your school or starts a new job at your office, you wonder, Could this be the one?
Or maybe you’re already in love with someone. At this moment all the love songs on the radio make sense. You spend hours in the Hallmark store choosing the perfect card for your honey-pie-love-bunches. (You leave with eleven cards and a stuffed walrus.) For you the question isn’t in the back of your mind; it’s front and center, and you believe you know the answer. I think there’s a one for me after all!
But perhaps you’re on the other side of the relationship divide, and you’re not so optimistic at the moment. You’re recovering from a painful breakup. Disillusioned. You were sure you’d met the one. But that was before the lying. Before the drifting apart. Before the restraining order. Before the dude like Jim Carrey’s character in The Cable Guy.
Maybe you were married. With all your heart, you believed it was forever, but it simply wasn’t true. Whether it was divorce or a breakup, you feel alone. You ache, wondering when the pain will ease, if you’ll ever love again. Were you even meant to find the one? Does wanting it to be true make it true?
I don’t blame you. I’ve felt the same way. Slightly optimistic one moment, devastatingly depressed and hopeless the next. I always hated the person with all the answers. You know, the married friend who preaches, “You just have to not care. Then you’ll find the one.” Or “If you just surrender, the perfect person will show up.”
You might be thinking that I’m the annoying know-it-all right now. What does some married pastor-guy know? What could I gain from reading another stupid book about preparing for marriage?
Good questions. I’ll admit, I don’t have surefire formulas for “how to find the love of your life in thirty days or less.” I won’t try to sell you on “five steps to living happily ever after.” My goal is twofold. First, I’ll offer a different perspective on a marriage that lasts a lifetime. And second, I plan to offer you…
RESERVATIONS FOR ONE
It’s hard to be hopeful these days, to be confident you’ll find your soul mate and enjoy a long and fulfilling life together. Many twenty- and thirty-somethings today see marriage as a risky venture. They’re not cynical, just observant. They see plenty of unhappy couples, dismal divorce statistics, and heartbreak in families, often their own.
No wonder people are getting married later in life, with more reservations and less success. Many are hiding from their fears by building their careers, postponing marriage indefinitely.
Others keep searching. That’s what I did. Though I wanted to do what was right, the Bible seemed like a distant, out-oftouch rule book. You might relate. People say: “Sleep around. Focus on externals. Splurge on your toys. Don’t worry about consequences. The future’s uncertain. Live for today. Why risk missing out? Don’t let religion hold you back. You deserve to get what you want now…”
This approach to relationships has become the new normal. Problem is, the new normal doesn’t work. (Have you noticed?) In fact, it leads to a lot of needless suffering, injury, and disillusionment.
I wrote this book because people in my generation are making decisions way before marriage that actually sabotage what they really want for their futures. We don’t make these decisions in a vacuum, or because we’re the biggest losers ever to walk the planet.
We make them in large part because our culture constantly bombards us with deeply flawed ideas about what it means to be in love, to be happy, to be sexual, to have a meaningful relationship with a person of the opposite sex…and we buy the lies. Many people I meet–sadly, even many Christians–have little or no idea that a better way exists. Frankly, I’m tired of waiting for premarital counseling to lay out a biblical plan for finding lasting intimacy in marriage. By then, for many, it’s just too late. Too late to prevent a lot of hurt. Too late to prevent the death of a dream.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
ALL THE WAY, NOT PARTWAY
If God has a marriage planned for you, think about this: you have already been created to “go all the way.”
When I say “go all the way,” I’m not talking about the “I Wanna Sex You Up,” people-disposable games many settle for. I’m not talking about taking what you want sexually (or giving away sexually what someone else demands) in a relationship before marriage. Instead, I’m affirming God’s plan for a marriage that goes all the way in sexual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment. And that goes all the way through the years and decades of your life.
Most people, Christ followers or not, deeply desire exactly this. But a closer look at how many of us pursue this goal before and after marriage shows that, while our desires are normal, our methods are routinely misguided. Turns out, how we set about to go all the way in our most important human relationship takes us only partway.
So what do you do when you want a marriage that soars in a world where most crash before takeoff? What do you do when you have a dream for intimacy, but most married couples you know are strangers to each other? What do you do when you desire a marriage that goes all the way?
I propose that you do something different.
In this book, I’m going to show you that your desire for lifelong intimacy is a God-given desire. And I’m going to help you prepare for that relationship. But we’re not going to travel the typical path. Ours will be delightfully different. Oddly godly. I won’t try to fool you–a good marriage is never easy. But it is absolutely possible.
If you haven’t traveled the sinful road, laced with land mines, I hope to help you stay off that path. And if you’ve already taken some hits, we’ll be able to relate and then begin to identify a God-blessed way forward. Together we’ll plan for your relational success, examining how to conduct your relationships in a positive, fulfilling way. I’ll offer ideas about what to do and what not to do. You’ll learn to prepare for a marriage that goes all the way to God’s best. A marriage that doesn’t just survive, but thrives.
Let me warn you: this book may require a radical shift in your thinking. If small changes would do the trick, everyone would be making them. Minor adjustments produce marginal results. Most of us need to overhaul our thought processes. To experience the kind of relationships we long for, we must, with God’s help, prepare to be genuinely different.
We have to redefine and choose to aim for a new kind of “normal.” Because the current one doesn’t deliver. Of course, not everyone wants to get married. And not every one who wants to marry will marry. I also know that some people do nearly everything wrong yet end up in wonderful marriages. And that some others do everything possible to find their spouses while honoring biblical guidelines and still end up in miserable relationships.
Hey, it’s a crazy world. What can I say?
So I can’t make guarantees. But I will present some powerful, time-tested principles based on God’s Word. His Word is true and constant, like the law of gravity is true and constant. We ignore either at our own risk. Consider what the law of gravity suggests about how to get off your roof: you may not break a leg (or worse) every time you choose to jump, but the law of gravity definitely argues for using a ladder. Similarly, my starting point for Going All the Way is the Bible. Because we have been created by a loving, intentional God, we’re wise to consider the relational laws He has put in place. When we don’t follow the path He lays out in Scripture, we’re inviting injury to ourselves and others. But thankfully, the opposite is also true: when we do follow the path of truth, we’re far more likely to discover and enjoy the marriage we hope for and that God desires for us.
In case you’re wondering, my seventh-grade dream girl, Kelli, wasn’t the one. (I told myself it was her loss.) After a bunch of wasted years, several misfires, some relational train wrecks, and a couple of broken hearts, I was ready to write off all hope for a great marriage. No one is faithful, I thought. Almost all marriages I know stink. Why bother?
Then I met a girl named Amy, and God blessed our friendship. It took time for my battered heart to fully trust her–or even trust myself. But with God’s help and encouragement from friends, Amy and I grew together. We didn’t “go all the way” by the world’s definition. We wanted something more. We wanted to go all the way in truth and love. We wanted God’s normal.
Seventeen years and six children later, I’m honored to tell you that you can have hope for a great marriage. (Yes, you read that right. We have six kids. What can I say? Amy can’t keep her hands off me. What? You don’t buy that?)
No matter what you’ve seen, how badly you’ve been hurt, or how afraid you are, with God, a lasting and intimate marriage is possible. Even in a world where happy marriages are often considered just another fairy tale, it can be real for you. If you want something few have–genuine closeness, trust, respect, and lasting commitment–you’ll have to do what few do.
Go all the way, God’s way.
In the pages ahead, we’ll find out what that really means.