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Love is All You Need

From the series Relational Intelligence

If "love is all you need," why is love so fickle? Why do we seem to fall in and out of love so easily? We even embrace a familiar love "promise" without much thought: "When I fall in love, then everything will fall into place." In part 3 of this series, Ryan Ingram gives us three solid ways to increase the love quotient in our lives.

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Message Transcript

Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or you’re an extrovert, we all have this same deep desire, this longing, this intrinsic need to have an intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationship that has this rugged commitment to one another. Intimate, meaning that where you really know someone and you are known by them. Just not on the surface level, it’s life-giving, like the people that you see and you maybe had a few friends like this that you just, like, “Ahh.” Man, your soul is refreshed by them.

That they’re character-shaping – that you want to be a better person that, like, when you’re around them, you’re just like, “Oh, I want to be a better person because I’m with them and around them.”

And then it’s just not a fair-weather friend, a fair-weather marriage – that it has this rugged commitment. Like you know they are with you through thick or thin, through good times and bad. And the question is: how in the world do we experience or have those kinds of relationships?

What we need is relational intelligence or relational wisdom. Relational intelligence is simply the skill of navigating relationships well. It’s a skill to be developed and grown and honed in. And it’s different because I think what we live in, we live in the age of information. We get so much information. And sometimes we think if we get more information, we acquire more information, then that makes me better at relationships.

No, it just makes you know more about relationships. But relationship intelligence is developing a skill. It’s the application of the proper information or the right knowledge, that we actually have to put it into practice. One of the things I have talked to my kids, I like to coach, so I coach my kids in their sports and talk to them and say that, “Practice doesn’t make perfect.”

Practice makes permanent. See, here’s the difference. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice makes permanent. So whatever you repeatedly do, will, you will permanently do.

And so, the correct knowledge and information put into practice is so important and especially when it comes to our relationships. When it comes to our relationships and making sure, Okay, God, You have designed us. You have created us. And so, I’m going to come to You and ask, okay, what is the wisdom that You have and how we are to go about our relationships and how are we going to then put it into practice?

This morning we are talking about love. And we are going to look at the skill of navigating love. Not just romantically – in all shapes and forms of it – but we say things like this, “Love will get us through.” How are you going to make it? On love! I don’t know! Do you have a plan? No. But we love each other.

We say things like, “The world would be a better place if we just loved each other.”

Love is what makes the world go ‘round. Love is the most powerful force on the planet.

Or maybe, this is more popular. “Just love me. Don’t try to change me. Just love me.”

We believe in love at first sight and as a culture and as a people, we are constantly falling in and out of love and what love has become is love has now become our trump card, hasn’t it? See, we use love in this way: as long as I love them, or as long as you love them, then it is okay. Who am I to stand in the way of love? Well, I fell out of love with them and I am now in love with them, so I can cheat on my spouse or I can do this. I can violate God’s call and the way He designed relationships because I just love them. And it has become our trump card.

Now, in this conversation today about love, there is underneath it this modern love promise that is inherent in, well, our conversation dialogue about love. It’s what we buy into. And the promise goes something like this: when I fall in love, then everything will fall into place. When I fall in love, oh, wouldn’t it be great to fall in love? And when that happens, everything will fall into place because love is what makes the world go ‘round and you don’t need a plan and just when you fall in love and you’re like, we don’t really believe that, but we believe that. That’s kind of how it works.

Said another way: when I find the right person, then everything will work out right. When I find the right person. Mr. Perfect, Miss Right, when I find them, then my life will work out right and it has this kind of progression to it. The modern love promise says: find the right person, fall in love, and then live happily ever after, right? I find the right person, which is a challenge in the world we live in, because how do you know if you married the right person or found the right person with eight billion people? It’s a lot of choices to find the right person.

And then fall in love and then live happily ever after. And the challenge is, and you know it and I know it and we experience it, is what happens when you don’t experience happily ever after? See, what we do is we reverse engineer the love promise. If everything doesn’t fall into place, then we fall out of love.

Said another way, if everything is not working out right, then I must have married the wrong person. And for some, you’ve been married a year, six months, two years, the seven-year itch. It’s a thing, I hear.

And you look at them and you’re like, “I don’t really love them anymore. Things didn’t fall into place. It’s not working out right. They must be the wrong person.” Let me ask you this about love. If you love is all you need, why isn’t love more resilient? Like, if it is the most powerful force on the planet, why isn’t it more resilient? Why doesn’t it have a staying power? Why do we fall in and out of love so much in our culture? Why is love so fickle? Why does it feel like one day you’re in love, one day you’re not, one day – well, she is the most amazing, then all of a sudden, they are the most amazing?

I think part of the problem has to do with the way that we use the word “love” and then the way that we define the word. Like, think about the way that we use the word “love” in English, because that’s what I’m speaking – English. I guess that’s the reason I use that.

But we use it in all sorts of interesting ways, right? I love the Golden State Warriors, I love tacos. I mean, they are fantastic. I love Mexican food. And then I love my kids. We use the same word and we know, we know we mean something different by it every single time, but doesn’t it lose its grit? Doesn’t it lose its umph, its power when we use that same word for so many different things?

Because the love that I have for my kids, the love that I have for my wife, the love that I have for my friends is far different than the love that I have for the Warriors, not too different, but different, or food. And then how we define love. And I think this gets to the root of it, honestly.

See, we define in our culture, love as a noun. It’s a thing. It’s a force. In fact, Webster defines it this way, “It’s a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person. It’s this attraction that includes sexual desire, a strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship, a person you love in a romantic way.”

And we have all probably experienced something like that before, this force, right? Cupid drew back his bow and then, pow! You’re knocked head over heels. You’re like, what just happened? I don’t know. Love happened.

It just hit you. It’s this force. It’s this thing and you saw her across the gym or across the quad. You saw him across the coffee shop and you couldn’t get them out of your mind. You went to bed just daydreaming like, Oh my gosh, trying to figure out, Okay, how do I strike up a conversation? And then you social media stalk them and you’re like, that’s weird, but no, I could be their friend and then DM and maybe say, “Hey!” And then if they say “hey” back then maybe something might happen there.

Or we’ve had that, maybe it’s at a party, maybe it’s on a trip, or just a conversation happens. And something ignited. And you’re like, “Ooh.” You fell in love.

And, yet, the challenge and what you see and what I see and what we experience is we are a culture obsessed with love, but we actually seem to have a love deficit when it comes to our friends, when it comes to our relationships, when it comes to the deep areas.

So the question is: how do we have a love that is actually resilient? That stands the test of time? That can withstand the storms of life? How can we have a love that we’d go, “Yeah, that will last a lifetime.”

One of the amazing things about when the Bible was written – it was written in a time when Koine Greek was the dominant, or trade language. And so, across the entire Roman Empire, you at least knew the trade language, which was Greek. And then you probably knew your own local dialect. For example, Jesus, and His disciples spoke Aramaic and that was their native tongue, and yet, they also would have spoken Greek because you had to know Greek as the dominant trade language to be able to communicate.

And the great thing about Greek is they don’t, it doesn’t just have one word for love. It doesn’t just use one word that says I’m going to use this for every single way. In fact, there are four words for love.

These are all important in our life. And, yet, there’s only one of these that is to be the foundation. And so, what I want you to do is as I begin to unpack these, for you to begin to think about and evaluate: which one of these words is actually my love foundation? This is the, this is what I’m building relationships upon.

Not just dating relationships, not just marriage relationships, but relationships with co-workers and friends and neighbors. And you begin to go, okay, there is a foundation upon which you’re building and you have to understand, okay, which of these four loves am I building a foundation upon? All of them are important. And so, but only one of them we are to build a foundation to have a love that lasts.

And so, the first of the four loves is the one called storge. This is familial love. It’s a natural or instinctual affection. This is a parent’s love for a child. This is sibling’s love, like brothers and sisters. It’s the storge type of love. Now, when storge is your foundation and we see this a lot with especially parents and kids in our day and maybe you have seen helicopter parents, right? They just hover. In my day, and some of you remember this, my mom would go, “Get out of the house.

And here’s what was amazing, I’d be like eight years old, get on a bike, and just go riding in the neighborhood. Why? Because it’s like, “You’ll be fine!” And all of a sudden today we have these hovering parents. And what happens is when storge is your foundational type of love is that your kids are your life. Maybe you’re in a family and you, maybe if you’re a college person, your family or your parents become your life and there’s this idea of failure to launch as well.

And what happens in marriages is kids, the marriage subtly begins to center around their kids. And so, instead of investing in their relationship, they are just hovering. We’ve got helicopter and then you have snowplow parents. Maybe some of you had snowplow parents. Maybe some of you are snowplow parents. What a snowplow parent is they just want to push all the obstacles out of their kids’ way. They just want to plow it.

And for a marriage that is built on that, what ends up happening is it lasts until the kids get out of the house and then one of the spouses suffers an identity crisis because their identity was in their kids. And then the couple looks at each other and has nothing in common.

Storge, incredibly important familial love, but it is not intended to be the foundation of our love.

The next is eros. Eros is the physical or sexual love, a deep feeling of attraction or sexual desire. When we are talking about love in our culture, “Cupid, draw back your bow,” right? That part of it, we’re talking about eros. We are talking about an eros type of love.

It is this physical, sexual – it’s this moment, and it’s, by the way, God’s not down on eros!

We tend to think that God is like, “Ugh!” Oh, prudy, like, “Ooh my gosh, ew, you do that? Ah!” No. He invented it! It was His idea. And so, we should take note from Him about how to go about our sexuality. In fact, He wrote an entire book, Song of Songs, all about romantic love and our sexuality.

However, when eros becomes the foundation, what happens is a relationship as a people, we become pleasure seekers, me-centered, and emotionally based. And as soon as that attraction diminishes, as soon as the passion begins to fade or dwindle, go, “I just don’t love them anymore.” And it was never intended, as important and beautiful and wonderful, to be the foundation of our love.

You have storge, you have eros, and then you have phileo. Phileo is the friendship or companionship love. It’s a close association and affection. I mean, I think one of the lost arts in our society today is the companionship and deep friendship.

Like, this is a love that we need to dial up. It’s an area where we don’t do friends very well and we live at a surface level and for many, this is an area where you’re going, “I need to invest more in my friendships.” However, if phileo is the foundation, what it ends up doing is it creates a bit of a co-dependency on the other person and you begin to look for that other person to fulfill or complete you and fulfill your needs.

This can happen especially if you have a background, maybe you have a family background that is tough, so storge is hard. Maybe you have a background where eros is one of those that it actually does feel gross, it feels hard, and you’re like, Man, I, Ingram, you don’t know what I’ve been through.

And so, then, what happens is then we lean into the phileo side and that becomes our life source and connection. And these are all important. They are important to our friendships, they are important to our relationships, however they cannot sustain and last as the foundation of our love.

And the last one and many of you already know what the last one is, you probably wrote it in already in your notes, the last one is – what, anybody? Agape. That’s right. Agape is an unconditional, sacrificial love, a love marked by giving and not getting. It is others-centered, unconditional saying, “I love you unconditionally,” which, by the way, let me just explain this real quick. Unconditional doesn’t mean there isn’t boundaries to it. It means, and so, every good parent understands this, so let me explain.

I love my kids unconditionally. And what we tend to interpret unconditional is you love me as I am, don’t ever change me or expect anything of me. No, no, no, no, no. My kids, I get, because I love them unconditionally, I want the very best for them, my love will never vary and I see that there is activity and behavior in their life that will shipwreck them and so my unconditional love says, “I want to give you what is very best and I know that that attitude, that response, that direction of life is going to fundamentally harm you.”

See, it’s agape is an unconditional, sacrificial love, a love marked by giving, not getting. In fact, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives us this definition.

And what I want you to do is as you listen to this, many times we just go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard it before. I was at a wedding the other day,”and you’re like, “It’s just that sweet love passage.” Would you hear this afresh? This is powerful. This is profound. This isn’t like cutesy, weddingy, that’s not a word – but you know what I mean. This is gritty. This is real.

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, the apostle Paul says this, “Love is patient, love is kind.” In fact, he only tells us two things which love is. Now, think about this. Don’t you want a roommate that is patient and kind? Don’t you want a co-worker that is patient and kind? Wouldn’t you like a boss that is patient and kind? Wouldn’t you hope that your spouse is patient and kind? Okay? How about your kids? Don’t you want kids who are patient and kind?

He says, “Love,” patient, this longsuffering, enduring, kind, gentle, tender. And then he gives us seven things that love is not. “It does not envy, it’s not jealous,” love doesn’t look at your life and go, “I want what you have or I’m upset that you have it.” Love doesn’t look at someone else’s Instagram game and go, “Ugh. I wish I had that.”

“It does not envy, it is not proud.” Think about that. Love doesn’t inflate one’s own importance. It doesn’t make it about themselves. It does not dishonor others. There’s no shame in love. There’s no guilt in love. There’s no putting you down or wanting to make sure you’re put in your place in love.

“It is not self-seeking,” it’s not about you. Or maybe said another way, it is not self-absorbed. In the me-centrality that we live in in our culture, he says: it’s not all about you. “It’s not easily angered,” irritated, annoyed, frustrated. Those are all words I use to say that I’m not angry, I’m just irritated, I’m annoyed, I’m frustrated, right?

We don’t like to say “anger,” oh, but it seeps in so many different ways with our relationships. “It keeps no records of wrong.”
My wife and I go to counseling once a month and it’s just this time for us to really grow and develop as a couple.

And there’s times when we are hanging out on the drive, it’s about a thirty-minute drive to where we go and we are talking about, “Hey, what are we going to talk about?” And my wife will kind of jokingly say, “Well, you probably have a list.” And I do! Because I write in a journal and I’m always writing stuff down and I’m, like, Oh, I don’t know how to deal with that, let me write this down. Or, Jenny did this and that kind of annoyed me and I want to see what Sue has to say about that.

And she’s like, and then like, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” There’s no tit for tat, there’s no, “Hey, you did this and you did that and I’m holding this over you and look at you! And I’m going to keep a record. And I’m going to bring it back and I’m going to keep reminding you of how you failed. I’m going to keep reminding you of how you screwed up. I’m going to keep reminding you of how you just are…”

And so, love says no, love does not do that. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects,” means it’s safe. “Always trusts, always hopes.”

This is what you are invited to embrace as the foundation of your love. First, that love is not a noun; love is a verb. It’s an action. It’s not a force; love is a choice. This is how love behaves. It’s not dependent upon your feelings. He says, “This is what love does.” If you want to know what love is, this is just how it looks to be loving. This is how love behaves.

In fact, when I counsel newly engaged couples and talk to them about their wedding, I take them to this passage and I say, “I want you to write this out for the other person and personalize it, because when you say, ‘I love you,’ we are not talking about love, the feeling. We are not talking about storge or phileo or eros. When you are committing love, you are committing agape. You’re saying, ‘I agape you.’”

And here’s what that looks like: I will be patient with you, even when you leave all your crap all around the house and it’s driving me up a wall. Like, you’ve got to get personal. What does it look like? It’s a verb; it’s a choice.

Now, notice this: love is not a doormat and love is not a dictator. You see, love is not to be walked all over to accept abuse. Notice that love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It says, “I stand on the side of what is right and true, and I’ll stand up for that because that’s what is best for you and for me. And I’m not going to allow you to bring abuse or heartache or pain in here,” and it is not a dictator.

Love does not demand its rights. And most often, the way this happens, whether it’s in friendships, dating, even at work, and in marriages is we tend to manipulate others. We try to manipulate them. We call it love but it’s really not a love marked by giving, it’s a love marked by getting.

And we do it in our relationships all the time. I will do this in order to get this. Agape love is a love marked by giving, not getting.

See, the modern love promise says: when I fall in love, everything will fall into place. Relational intelligence says it’s less about falling in love and it’s far more about growing in love. It’s less about falling in love.

And there’s a moment of falling in love, there’s a moment, so don’t hear me, “Ingram, he hates romance!” No! That’s wonderful and good, it’s just not foundational for any great relationship.

And it’s far more about growing in love, so how do you grow in love? How do you build a foundation on agape love? I’m so glad you asked. Turn in your Bibles, to Ephesians chapter 5, verse 1. And we are going to talk about increasing your love quotient.

How do you grow in love? And, in fact, in this text you’re going to see three different forms of the verb agape in this text that is going to help us unpack: how do we actually do this? Because if you’re like me and you read that love thing and you’re going, like, Man, that’s overwhelming. That ain’t me. I want that to be true, I want that to be true of the people in my life and the co-workers. I want to be that but I don’t know how.

Notice what the apostle Paul says. He says, “Be imitators of God,” circle that word be. It’s a command. This is – we are to imitate Him. “Therefore, as dearly loved children,” underline dearly loved. “As dearly loved children, live a life of love.” Circle the word live. We are going to get to that in a second.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, live a life of love,” how? “just as Christ loved you,” underline that – loved us, “and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Okay, how do we increase our love quotient? How do we grow in love? The first is we need to embrace that we are dearly loved. That you’re dearly loved. The Greek word here is agapētos. It’s the object of one’s affection, having a very special relationship – beloved.

This is embracing your identity and your position in Christ. You’re not working for love, you are loved. You are profoundly and perfectly loved by your heavenly Father right now in this moment.

Nothing you can do will ever change that, whether you have a good day or a bad day, His love does not vary at all. He loves you – period.

Notice this, there is something in you that God loves and if God love you, then you must be worthy of love.

It’s popular in our day to talk about self-love. And I don’t want to diminish this, but the way the conversation is going is, it goes something like this: “I’ve got to love myself first in order to be able to love you.” “I’ve just got to love me!” In fact, in my research, I remember seeing this. “I love you, but I love me more,” is like the modern love phrase. Interesting.

But we live with this. Like, no, I’ve got to love me. I’ve got to have me. And what that is, let’s just unpack this, if you’re starting with a love deficit and you’re trying to love yourself more, you have nothing to give yourself. It is starting with God.

See, to live a life of love, we first have to understand we are loved. Not that you love yourself more, we’ll get to that, but that you are profoundly loved. That God just loves you. You can’t give to others what you haven’t yet received and He says, “I love you. You are My beloved. You’re an adopted child of the King Most High. You are loved,” and everything you do flows from that – your identity, your position.

Embrace, embrace that you are dearly loved. See, one of the most destructive things in our culture today with relationships is looking for the other person to complete or fulfill us. They can never complete or fulfill you. But when your identity is secure, you’re no longer having a love that is need-based. “I need you. I need this. I need that.” No, no, no. I am fully loved, complete, and so I can give love.

How do we grow in love? First, embrace that you are dearly loved. Second, did you see it, commit to living a life of love. “As dearly loved children, live a life of love.”

And that word I had you circle – be – it’s a command. Be imitators. It’s the picture of a little kid imitating their mom or their dad, mimicking what they do. Their hand gestures and all the different idiosyncrasies that they have and saying, in the same way that you have been so well loved by your heavenly Father, mimic Him. Mimic Him.

Begin to put it into practice. It’s that “live a life of love.” That’s a command. Commit to it. See, we go, you know what? We want to grow in this, but I am waiting until I feel like it. You know, when I feel like it. And eventually when I feel like it, then I’ll start to do it.

Agape – let me give you just a little further definition of this. The self-giving, sacrificial love that gives the other person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least. See, first, you start with: I’m dearly loved. I have all that I need from my heavenly Father. Now, I’m going to commit, I’m going to make a choice to love.

The wedding picture when a couple is standing up and proclaiming their vows, a lot of times when we think about it is we think about it as professing love. And it certainly is. They are professing their love for one another, but something that is happening that is even more profound, and it’s missed a lot of time is they are not just professing love, they are promising future love.

They are making a commitment of future love. In sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in good times and in bad times. I am making a commitment to you that my love, this agape love is what I am choosing to respond to and when I don’t, I’ll own it. But I’m promising that circumstances will not change it. I’m making this commitment.

You’re like, Well, what about feelings, Ingram? You’ve been kind of down on feelings. No, no, no. See, love is not devoid of feelings, it’s just not defined by it. And we tend to define our lives by how we feel. And he says, first, you should feel awesome. You’re loved. You’re beloved. And if that just sunk in a little bit, your whole world would change.

You’d go, Man, this is crazy. The God of the universe, the One who spoke all things into existence? That God, He says I’m the object of His affection? Like Zephaniah would say that He’s rejoicing over you with singing? Like, if you just got that for a little bit, you’d just be walking around like, “I’m so confident.” Not cocky. Confident. Right? “I’m loved!” And so I’m committing to give to you the type of love I received from my heavenly Father.

And, by the way, that’s the exact way Jesus has loved you. 1 Corinthians 13 is an expression of how God has loved you. And for us, it’s not just committing to a life of love, we have to rely on Christ’s love to empower you.

He says, “Just as Christ loved,” it’s the Greek word agapaō. I love how Efrem Smith defines this. He says, “It’s the unconditional love of Jesus in us that is flowing through us to be a force of transformation around us.” The unconditional love of Jesus in us that is flowing through us to be a force of transformation around us.

See, as we sit back and we look at that and we go, Man, that agape love, I can’t. That agape love with my co-workers, man she is just really on my case. He is just really tough. Every meeting is a struggle. I can’t. I can’t agape them. And he says, “You can’t but He can through you.” Would you rely on Christ’s empowering love working in you?

With my roommate, with my spouse, oh, it’s been a rough season. Oh man, they are in a mood. I can’t! You’re right, you can’t, but He can through you.

See, the gospel is this. The gospel is that God loves you, that He meets you right where you are, that when you cry out for your need for Him, He meets you. And He says He will deposit the Spirit of God inside you. You are now adopted into the family of God. You are marked among the beloved, that is your identity. And then you have the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, dwelling inside you to empower you to live out a radically new life.

And far too many of us are walking around weak and feeble going, “I can’t, I can’t.” Just own it. Yeah, of course you can’t. But He can through you. It looks something like this. I shared it a few, like, I don’t know, a month ago or something like that, is you know that love is patient? I could grow in that too. But the kind part. And it’s not being kind to strangers. I’m pretty good at that. It’s being kind to the people closest to me. My kids.

See, love is really challenged in the unguarded moments. We are good at loving people when we are kind of on, but it’s those unguarded moments that are generally the people closest to us, whether it’s a friend or family or spouse.

And I go, God, I want You to develop in me gentleness or kindness. It’s actually a fruit or the Spirit so I know that when I rely on the Spirit, You’re going to actually produce that in my life. And I have this little 3x5 card and each morning I review it, I reviewed it this morning. And at the top it says this “Husbands, love your wives.” And I write in our names, “Ryan, love Jenny.” How? “Just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.”

Like, your role is to sacrifice your life for your wife. Not to dominate, but to lay down your life. You’re going, Okay, what does it look like? Okay, God, help! I, in and of myself, I can’t do that. And underneath it, I have the 1 Corinthians 13 passage, “Love isn’t… and it’s a prayer in the morning, each and every morning of, I want to reorient my mind around what is true and invite You to have Your way in me. Holy Spirit, would You empower me to be that kind of man?

And then you take the next step. You just take the next step and say, God, I don’t know how to love this person, I don’t know how to love that co-worker, I don’t know how to love my roommate, I don’t know how to love…and you just go, but I’m going to rely on You and so I am going to take the step I know that love is calling, I know that love asks me to do, and I’m going to trust that You’re going to empower me as I take that step.

See, we don’t take the step, we’re going, God, would You empower me? Would You empower me? Would You empower me?

You just take the next step. And go, I know what love calls me to. I’m asking, would You empower me? And I’m going to take that step.

It’s what Paul would say in Galatians, “Walking in step with the Spirit.” And so, I’m going to leave you with this. This is just simply what love asks. Would you begin to ask this, to help you know what are the steps you need to take? Whether it’s with your friends, with your co-workers, with your ex. What is the highest and best for the other person? This is the questions love asks.

What is the highest and best for your friend, for your boyfriend, for your girlfriend, for your spouse, for your ex, for your co-workers, for your kids? What is the highest and best for them? And then you go, okay, I’m going to remind myself: I am fully loved. This is my identity, so I don’t need love from them. I’m going to choose to do what is the highest and best and I’m going to invite the Spirit of God to empower me to do that.