Part 1: Fulfilment
There’s no shortage of magazine articles, blogs, and YouTube videos on romantic relationships and how to relate to the opposite sex. Understandably, many writers, motivational speakers, relationship “experts”, even Pastors and other men of the cloth have attempted to explore the differences between men and women, presenting their findings in ‘What men wish women knew’ and ‘What women wish men knew’ articles, quizzes, videos and interviews. Being a romantic at heart, and deeply desiring a fulfilling marriage relationship in future, I must confess, I have read and watched my fair number of these.
I have learned a lot from these articles: from what men consider beautiful in a woman, to a man’s need for respect and how godly submission fulfills this need, to some simple things one can do to make a man go crazy in the sheets! There’s a wealth of knowledge and wisdom out there… yet, as I grow in my understanding of self and the role, position and honor God places on the woman, I become increasingly aware of a knowledge gap amongst many of us, both men and women, pertaining to our true nature and identity, from which our needs are defined. This series is my humble attempt to fill, albeit only in part, this largely imperceptible yet deadly chasm.
Fulfilment is only achieved when a need is met
You see, fulfilment is only achieved when a need is met. While achieving our goals and receiving our hearts’ desires proffer a certain level of fulfilment, this is usually fleeting and incomplete. Our nature is such that when we accomplish one goal, we almost immediately set upon the pursuit of another. Our desires – most of which are either exceedingly selfish, materialistic, or both – are always growing and evolving such that if we look only to their satisfaction to find fulfilment, we resign ourselves to a lifestyle of extreme highs and lows, which is ultimately very unfulfilling. Moreover, our dreams and desires arise from our core needs and our often misguided attempts to meet those needs. Therefore, lasting and holistic fulfillment can only be achieved when our core needs are constantly and consistently met.
Personal fulfilment breeds joy, peace, and content, which in turn lead to better physical and mental health, increased productivity, and stronger relationships. While we tend to argue and fight less with our spouses when we’re happy, fulfilled and at peace, non-issues in a relationship rapidly escalate to insurmountable resentments when we are stressed and bogged down by everyday life pressures such as tension at the work place, insufficient finances, and behavioral issues in our children.
Contrary to popular opinion, money – more specifically, the lack thereof – does not in itself cause conflict in relationships. If it were so, then poor people would never have happy marriages. However, money issues become a source of conflict when one or both parties in the relationship are already stressed and feeling strained, hence have a diminished capacity to positively handle any additional pressures that financial challenges so often present. Therefore, we can confidently say that personal fulfilment is integral to all healthy relationships; it is a fundamental element upon which successful marriages are built and thrive.
Definition of a Successful Marriage
My definition of a successful marriage is one where both parties are valued, respected, appreciated, and supported by their spouse in the pursuit of their individual and marital God-appointed destinies for the duration of the marriage – till death do them part. This is the definition of unconditional love in marriage. It’s not about me getting what I want, rather me serving you in honor and humility in the knowledge that you are God’s precious possession to whom I am given the privilege of such intimate access as marriage. This access is for the express purpose of helping each other fulfill God’s divine assignment for our individual lives, as well as his purposes for our union, all if which are designed to bring glory to his holy name.
Personal fulfilment not only bolsters our direct relationship with God, it ultimately enables us to honor and glorify the Lord in our relationships with others. The enigma, then, is not the importance of fulfilment, but the path one must follow to arrive at it.
The Journey to Personal Fulfilment
The journey to personal fulfilment begins with understanding our needs. We must be able to clearly isolate, define, and illustrate our core needs before we can begin to figure out how to have them met. Unfortunately, due to years – even decades – of abuse, neglect, hardship, misinformation, tradition, and deception, we have grown accustomed to dismissing or overlooking our core needs in favor of survival and the pursuit of human or societal acceptance because these are easier to achieve than the authenticity required for self-examination.
For example, instead of acknowledging our core human need for help, we often turn to money for a sense of security and independence. The truth is: no human being can ever achieve independence; our human nature and constitution is that of dependence upon God (and other human beings as He chooses). The very breath that keeps us alive comes from God and when He takes it away, we die. The pressing quest for independence and the concomitant pursuit of that evasive security blanket that money supposedly offers are among the greatest deceptions in the human race.
“When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.” Psalm 104:29
To unerringly, comprehensively, and proficiently understand our core needs, we must perform an in-depth study and investigation of our nature and constitution. As we discover what we are, then we begin to gain an understanding of what we need to maintain our substance. As we figure out who we are, then we are able to accurately delineate and prioritize our needs. And when we grasp why we’re here, then we can start working out what we need to fulfill our purpose. The what, who and why of our existence defines our identity.
The answers to all these questions are found in the bible, the infallible written word of God. The first two chapters of the bible narrate the story of how and why the LORD God created mankind, emphasizing that “in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Right from the start, it is clear that our identity is tied to our Creator and that our sex is a fundamental, unique, and divinely appointed feature of our identity. Consequently, while we all have the same needs due to our human nature, some needs differ between men and women in definition, priority, and scope.
In the subsequent books and chapters of the bible, numerous authors inspired by the Holy Spirit, illustrate the relationship between God and man, spirit and flesh; emphasizing the Sovereignty of the Creator and Judge of the universe, and thus magnifying his love, mercy and goodness to mankind. In His written word, God has ensconced a wealth of knowledge and nuggets of wisdom to help us comprehend our hybrid nature of spirit contained in a flesh body, relating to other spirits and flesh bodies. Our ability to form and maintain stable relationships with God and other humans is directly proportional to our understanding of this hybrid dynamic. Why? First, the dynamic presents and defines the two types of needs (spiritual and physical) of every human being on planet earth. Secondly, and more importantly, because the dynamic reveals the true core of our being and its respective needs, it enables us to correctly prioritize and pursue the fulfilment of our most dire needs.
Fulfilment and Basic needs from a Biblical Perspective.
From a biblical perspective, food, shelter, and clothing are NOT the most basic needs of a human being. We cannot find fulfilment in food, houses or clothes, because at our core, these are not what we really need. If it were so, then all rich people would be fulfilled and the poor would never comprehend the meaning of the word.
In John 6:25-69, Jesus – in reference to the Manna that the Israelites ate in the desert – says to the crowd, “… it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Physical bread, like Manna, only satisfies but does not fulfill because man’s core need is not for food, but for life. Food is only profitable for the survival of the flesh, but what sustains a man is the life that comes from God.
We must train ourselves to constantly be aware of our hybrid nature – we are not just flesh bodies, we are spirits that operate in a flesh body. That’s what we are. Our identity is not just physical or earthly, but is first and foremost, spiritual. We are the image of a Spirit being, an invisible God; we resemble Him just like a child resembles its father. That’s who we are: children of our Father, the Supreme and Almighty God. And we are here, ultimately, to serve Him (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
To find fulfilment, therefore, we must examine and strive to meet the needs of the spirit man first; the needs of the flesh body come second. So what do we need to maintain our spirit? What does our spirit need to effectively serve God? What are the basic needs of the spirit? Isaiah 38:18 gives us a clue: “For dead men cannot praise you. They cannot be filled with hope and joy. The living, only the living, can praise you as I do today. One generation makes known your faithfulness to the next.” (TLB) The most basic need of a human being is life; not merely survival of the flesh, but the life that enables a man to fulfill his purpose in serving God. And this life is found in the bread that comes from heaven.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
Jesus is the bread of life that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (see also vs. 48 and vs. 51). In Him, we find fulfilment. Those who come to Jesus are eternally filled with all that they need to be who they were formed to be and to do what they were created to do. Our most basic need of true life can only be met in our Lord Jesus Christ. He tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
It begs the question, then, where do we find this bread and how do we partake of it? How do I eat Jesus? Well, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-14 and Revelation 19:11-16). When we read the written word, we’re ingesting Jesus; and when we hear God speak to us in prayer or through one of His servants, we are receiving the bread of life. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus Himself says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” He was referring to Deuteronomy 8:3 that talks about God humbling the children of Israel with physical hunger and then feeding them Manna (bread) from heaven “… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
But the word of God must be spiritually discerned for it to be of impact in our lives (1 Corinthians 19:9-14). This means that we need the Holy Spirit to break down (or digest) the word of God (the bread) in order to produce life within us. Jesus emphasizes in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing [is no help at all]. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (NJKV, brackets, ESV)
To experience personal fulfilment, we need the Father who gives the bread; we need the Son who is the bread; and we need the Holy Spirit who breaks down the bread for us.
In Summary: Personal Fulfilment is Key
So this is the first item on my list. I wish for ALL men to know that personal fulfillment is essential for a healthy relationship, not just with a woman, but with other men and with God. I wish for them to understand that fulfilment doesn’t come from the other person in the relationship or from achieving worldly riches, but comes when their core, most dire needs are met. I pray that God would flood the eyes of their understanding with light that they would know that their spiritual needs are most dire, and realize that only God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – can meet these needs and provide the fulfilment they seek and yearn for. And I ask the Father in heaven to affirm to all of them that He indeed meets and fulfills them in His holy word by His Holy Spirit.
I want the men to know that entering into a marriage with a woman who doesn’t understand the concept of personal fulfilment is a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, an uphill battle for the duration of her ignorance. We can’t ignore our needs, whether we know what they are or not. A woman who isn’t personally fulfilled will look to the man in her life for that fulfillment and, while you may be able to fill part of the gap for a while, you are definitely not equipped in your humanity to meet her need for supernatural, divine life. Such a marriage will quickly begin to feel like a deathtrap because you will be drained and sucked dry of life as you endeavor to please her; to pour into her what she does not know to get from God.
May the LORD God help the women even as He strengthens the men.