I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. –Ephesians 3:16, NIV
In the autumn of 1992, we did something unusual. We offered a course at Seattle Pacific University that promised to answer questions openly and honestly about family, friends, dating, and sex. In short, its purpose was to teach the basics of good relationships.
Colleges around the world offer instruction on nearly every conceivable topic, but try to find a course on how to have good relationships and you’ll look for a long time. We wanted to change that. As a psychologist (Les) and a marriage and family therapist (Leslie) teaching on a university campus, we had our hands on stacks of relationship research showing that, with a little help, most of us can make our bad relationships better and our good relationships great. And that’s exactly what we wanted to teach students to do.
Since that first autumn, we have lectured to thousands of students on campuses and in churches across the country, teaching the basics of good relationships. And we always begin with the same sentence: If you try to find intimacy with another person before achieving a sense of wholeness on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself.
Why does this sentence matter? Because your relationship can only be as healthy as you are. Therefore one of the most important things you’ll ever do to build healthy relationships is work on your own personal wellbeing – emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Truth be told, we can’t rely on someone else to complete us. Not even our spouse. Ultimately, our compulsion for completion is met in a relationship with God. And it’s the Holy Spirit, as this week’s verse indicates, that empowers us to grow strong. The more we lean into the Holy Spirit for “completion” the healthier we become.
This single sentence that we give to our students in Relationships 101 holds the key to finding genuine fulfillment for every relationship—including your marriage. If you do not grasp its message, the best you can hope for is a false and fleeting sense of emotional closeness, the kind that comes from a series of temporary attachments. Once you understand and internalize the truth of this sentence, however, you’ll discover the abiding comfort of belonging—to each other and ultimately to God.