She looked at herself in the mirror one last time before she dared to leave the room. It wasn’t very often she would wear a dress, but this promised to be a hot day – one of the hottest for that year, according to the weather app when she’d checked before jumping in the shower. It wasn’t a short skirt, falling millimeters above her knees, but it should be cooler than her normal jeans. “Looks OK” she thought before leaving the sanctuary of the bedroom.
“You look nice.” he said, when she entered the room where he’d been waiting. It wouldn’t be a long drive to where they were headed, but she knew he had grown impatient waiting for her, from the comments he’d been shouting up the stairs, even if they would be arriving early.
“Thank you.” She responded with a smile.
“Who are you trying to impress?!” He demanded to know. “Is your fancyman going to be making an appearance? Is that why you’ve tarted yourself up?”
The smile dropped like a lead weight to the pit of her stomach.
Sometimes when we’re in love, particularly at the start of a new relationship, it can cause us to change our behaviour a little as we learn to adapt to the other person, and compromise a little as we make space for each other in our lives.
But there’s healthy change and there is unhealthy change.
Healthy change is when you find yourself becoming a better person as the love you feel inspires and encourages you. You might find yourself going for walks instead of sitting around – which is obviously going to be better for you and improve your health and fitness. You might find yourself trying new things they enjoy. You might find yourself focussing on learning more about something they like just so you can communicate better with them about it. This is all healthy change.
But if we’re going to recognise whether changes are healthy or not, it has to start from the foundation that we know who we are, know what God says about who we are, and what He defines as love.
Then we have to be prepared to see the truth in the light of this, when Jesus shines on something which is unhealthy.
Changing who you are to appease another person, to avoid conflict, as if you need to walk on eggshells as though something is likely to break at any moment, this is unhealthy. It sucks everything out of who God created you to be and transforms you, not into the image of Christ – as the scriptures encourage us to be – but into the image of an unseen version of who the other persons demands you to be. It takes a lot of energy to try and compromise yourself and make yourself fit an unknown ideal of you based on someone else’s perception. Often this leads to you becoming a shadow of who you once were.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and the one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 TLV
The key to healthy relationships has to start with a healthy perception of knowing who you are. As determined by the word of God. For men and women there are different expectations in a relationship, but love – healthy love – has to start from the same premise. That we know who God has created us to be. True love drives out all fear, so if we’re afraid of someone, of their reaction to us, of what they might say, of how they might behave, is this “true love”?
There are people with insecurities, whose foundation is built on fear. Fear they’re not good enough, fear they’ll be alone, fear they aren’t attractive enough, so they adapt their behaviour out of the fear they’ll never be good enough, they’ll be dumped or left alone. This is another type of unhealthy relationship as you’re more focussed on the person you’re with, rather than on being the whole person God created you to be. You mold yourself on who you think they want, instead of finding your true identity in Christ. Which is as exhausting for them as it is for you in the long run.
Walking tall in a relationship is about knowing who you are and walking strong in that person. When you know who you are, you know what your standards and boundaries are, you know what your expectations should be, you know what God is doing in your life and where you’re going.
Then when someone comes along – compromise is easier from the position of strength, as you recognise if a compromise is a healthy one or not. If it’s causing you to lower your standard, or change because of fear – your own fear, or fear of the other person – then you can be sure this is not going to be healthy in the long run. Even if you do feel butterflies and excitement at the outset.
Be aware of the little foxes which may be sent to bring damage to the work of God in your life.
Don’t settle for a life of compromise, if it’s just you doing all the compromising. True love isn’t built on fear. And it isn’t about changing who you are to make life easier, based on unclear and unknown factors.
So if you’re going to know whether you’re changing for the better or for the worse, you need to get to know you first.
“To acquire wisdom is to love yourself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.” Proverbs 19:8 NLT
If you’re saying at the beginning of 2017 you want this to be the year of finding your partner, please take the time to really find yourself first.
“…Jesus replied: “…Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 19:18-19
Love is built on knowing who God is – for God is love. Love is built on knowing how to give and receive healthy love, which stems from knowing who you are and what you are about.
This may be the perfect time of year to reacquaint yourself with who you are, genuinely love yourself, and learn to receive the love Jesus gives to you. For how can you love someone else until you have learned to love yourself first. How can you give love to someone else, until you have learned to show yourself love first. How can you receive love, until you have first taken the love God gives to you, for you.
“For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.” Ephesians 5:29