With more than 20 books blending Scripture with sharp insights and humor to her credit, Michelle McKinney Hammond has been the go-to relationship guru for sisters who are searching for love. And she says the Word has helped her transform her own single years from sex-addicted and soul-starved to sanctified and satisfying. "I went through so many different trials when it came to men," recalls Hammond. "I am well acquainted with pain and rejection." Her brand-new book, How to Make Love Work: The Guide to Getting It, Keeping It, and Fixing What's Broken (Faithwords, $19.99), takes the form of a technical guide. Taking her cue from the ultimate owner's manual, the Bible, Hammond covers "parts" (the mind, the soul, the heart-how we can prepare a space within to love another), "assembly" (initializing, merging, turning on-steps to take when hooking up), "maintenance" (trust, forgiveness, laughter-actions needed to keep things running smoothly) and "troubleshooting" (what to do if there's static). Here she shares lessons to help you make a connection.
Movies have trained us that love just happens. It doesn't. When it comes to finding the love we've always wanted, there is no easy formula. But there are certain eternal principles that do work. The Master Manufacturer, God, knows how we are wired and what we need to connect with our soul mates. This is what I've learned from the Bible, my instruction manual for life.
1. Realize your worth
Learning to appreciate who and Whose we are is a process. Often we can be our own worst critics. Celebrate what God created you to be. He says that you're wonderfully made, that He literally held His breath when He knit you together in your mother's womb. He thought that you were magnificent, and He decreed that you were good. So why doesn't every woman value herself enough to receive that God-kind-of-love from a man?
2. Redirect your desires
I was an extremely sexual, sensual, physical person. The constant desire to touch somebody drove all of my relationships. I would frequently be involved with a man I didn't even like because I was physically addicted. I had to pray about it. I had to confess, "God I love you, but I don't love you enough. I need you to increase my love until I love you more than I desire flesh." In the Book of Isaiah, God declares, "I am your Maker and I am your Husband." That Scripture should resonate for women of faith. You know, every day God wants to prove Himself to you as a Husband, as the Lover of your soul. He wants to show up for you, He wants to provide for you, He wants to protect you. He did not wire anyone on the face of the earth to complete another person because if that happened there would be no need for Him.
Our number one relationship has to be with God, or none of our other relationships will work. You have to have your vertical relationship in place before the horizontal one can even begin to function properly. When we're in right alignment with God, we not only have a healthy sense of who He is and how He fits into our lives, but also of who we are and what our worth is. Get to know Him better. Become active in a faith community and take time daily for Bible study or devotional reading.
3. Release your fear of being alone
When you are alone, you have no choice but to face yourself, something that makes some of us uncomfortable. I used to be the type of woman who always had a man. I was using my body to feed a soul hunger. When the soul goes hungry for love, we keep trying to fill the void with whatever we can find: sex, food, shopping, gambling. But the comfort these compulsions offer is temporary, though the consequences can be lasting. When I found myself making wrong choices about men again and again, I realized I needed to clear my vision and get unstuck. A day of soul-searching brought up some hard questions. Where has this behavior gotten you? Have you had the type of relationship you wanted with any of these men? Are you married to any of them? Getting still and listening to God showed me the folly of my ways and the peace I had forfeited by doing things my way. So I declared a man-fast and just walked by myself for a year. Fasting gives us a rest from whatever is clouding our clear vision. I realized it wasn't so bad; I didn't always have to have a man. And it was much better to want a man than to need a man. Oftentimes women settle for Mr. Okay instead of sanctifying themselves so they can receive Mr. Perfect. Once you realize that you were created to be a blessing to somebody, you begin to celebrate that and that's where the love comes from.
4. Relinquish your baggage
We all carry baggage on the journey of life, but there are amounts that are bearable and amounts that are burdensome for yourself and others. I battled extreme guilt after the death of a boyfriend. We had had a horrendous disagreement, and he had decided to take a vacation to cool off. While away, he was shot and killed. Paralyzing feelings of self-blame lingered for so long it seemed that I might never love again. It wasn't until I stopped grappling with whose fault it was or wasn't and instead cried out to the Lord for mercy that my feelings of condemnation lifted from me.
Enlightenment-the spiritual kind-will lighten your load, so prayer or counseling from a clergyperson is the key to letting go. Knowing Jesus is our connection to forgiveness, allowing us to erase all past mistakes and feel whole. Like Him, we are children of God. Remember that in God's eyes, you are good, desirable, beautiful and lovable. Download His words into your system and override any self-defeating thoughts. Generally speaking, damaged people are attracted to each other because of familiar feelings. But bonding with a broken person may only deepen the damage already done. Pack light and you'll attract light. Even the airport charges extra money if your bags are over a certain weight!
5. Resist making generalizations
No woman should ever say all men are dogs, and no man should ever say all women are treacherous. When we understand that we all operate out of the pain that we've experienced, we have more grace that we can give one another. Learning to relate to men simply as human beings without boxing them into romantic expectations has opened my eyes to how fabulous they can be. There are good guys out there. All of us, but especially those of us who have been hurt, need some good solid male friends to help us reprogram our mind to believe that the opposite sex is wonderful. Ultimately, this allows us to accept the man God wants to place in our lives.
6. Relax about when love will happen
I count many wonderful and remarkable men as dear friends. But, perhaps like you, I have yet to find my divine life partner. Because the love of my life will always be Jesus, I know with Blessed Assurance that I'll one day be married, and I can relax about when. Don't put a timer on love. At the end of the day, God's timing is always perfect. Do not wait for some man to show up to take you on a cruise. Go discover the world. Luci Swindoll, speaker, devotional book author and one of my favorite people says, "Don't just be interested, be interesting." A lot of people sit around waiting for somebody else to make their life happen. But why would that person give you the time of day if you have nothing to offer?
7. Relate to men as more than prospects
Life is full of possibilities-possibilities that may just amaze you and ultimately give you a greater love than you could have imagined.
When you're looking for a partner, sometimes you miss out on all the other men in your life who could really become friends and supporters. When I meet a man, sure I have an initial instinct. I go, He's cute, but he's not my type. But I don't really know that yet. Therefore I will go out with him. And if I don't like him on the first date, I'll go out with him again because I have to give him grace for the nervous factor-we all do stupid stuff when we're nervous. So I'll give him another chance, and after the second chance I still might think, Hmmm, no, but this person's friendship could add an incredible dimension to my life.
8. Reap the rewards of giving
Love is all about giving, it's not about what you get. If we look at the definition of love in I Corinthians, it's really about sacrificing yourself. Patience is sacrificial. Hoping and believing for the best from people who don't do the right thing is sacrificial. Every single element that is used to describe love in I Corinthians is an act of sacrifice. So at the end of the day, love is about all that you give and in the giving you finally get. I tell my single sisters, instead of worrying about the biological clock and when you're going to get that baby, think about fostering, mentoring or adopting a child. Either you want to nurture a child, or you just want to have a baby. There's a difference.
9. Rethink Mr. Right
Judgment is a huge love robber for us. Finding a soul mate means liberating yourself from believing that love comes only in a certain color or only in a certain type of relationship. When you hear love calling, you best pick up the line and leave room for God to do His thing. I think that when you leave yourself open to love, it will surprise you. I once liked only men who were of a certain physical type. I dated this type over and over, only to find myself back where I had begun, looking for yet another person. Then one day a man who was nothing like these guys snuck in and swept me off my feet. That's when I learned that the cover of a book is no indication of the contents, which just might amaze you.
10. Recognize the real thing
How will you know when a man's love is true? One tip-off is that his actions are not ego-driven. It's not about, "I'm all that and a bag of chips." Remember in I Corinthians 13: 4-8 (New International Version), the Bible tells us, "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."
Michelle McKinney Hammond hosts Aspiring Women on the Total Living Network. Visit michellehammond.com for more insight.