of The Message
Speaker Michael Guillen, PhD, Scientist and Author
know of a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills who seems to
have everything life has to offer. A fancy home on Beverly
Drive, a Mercedes Benz, a lucrative practice, even his own
reality show on national TV. There's only one problem: he
also has a baby daughter and a beautiful wife, who is pregnant
... but he rarely gets to spend any time with them " he is too busy working! He works from 7 AM to 11 PM every day, including
weekends. He says when he does
see his baby, she sometimes cries because she doesn't recognize
this scenario is all too familiar in modern-day America.
Today, millions of men " and now women too " are spending more time
at work and less time with family and friends. Corporate
partnerships are beating out and beating up! " personal relationships.
A friend of mine from across the Atlantic Ocean put it this
way: "You Yanks 'live to work'
... whereas we British 'work to
a reformed workaholic myself, I'm here to tell you ... relationships
are not only important " they
not only keep us from being lonely " they
are the most important
thing life ... and for three reasons.
Reason #1: Relationships give meaning to our lives
was born in East Los Angeles surrounded by lots of family
and friends. Yet when it was time for me to attend grad
school, I chose to abandon them all. I chose to go clear
across the country to Cornell University in Upstate New
York to become a physicist. That was my dream, you see " like a "wannabe" actor going to Hollywood " and I wasn't going to let anyone or anything stand in my way.
the middle of my schooling, my mom, died of breast cancer,
and I was devastated. She was only fifty years old and I
had assumed she would be around for a long time " certainly
long enough to watch me graduate. All those years of making
me feel special, of supporting and encouraging my dream
to become a scientist " and now, suddenly, she was gone.
that oh-so-painful moment in my young life, I discovered
that first lesson: Relationships are the
most important thing in life because they give it meaning
and purpose. Without family and friends " without loved ones to
share it with " all the money, fame,
and success in the world is hollow, even meaningless. I'm telling you, right here and now, I'd gladly give up my PhD if it
would bring my mom or dad or grandparents back to life.
They mean " they still mean " that much to me.
Reason #2: Relationships bring light to our lives
also noticed how different kinds of relationships give life
to different parts of us. For example, I know this high-powered
Hollywood lawyer who graduated from Harvard Law School.
He represented a long list of famous celebrities and when
he is in the courtroom, trust me, you don't want to be on
the opposite side " he is sharp as a tack
and tough as nails. Yet, when this $500-an-hour attorney
is around children, a different part of him suddenly comes
to life ... just like that, he becomes sweet and cuddly.
Kids will sit in his lap and play with his $300 handmade
silk tie or pocket handkerchief and he'll just beam with
fatherly love and tenderness. It's really something to see!
my own case, during my studies to become a scientist, I
lived a monastic existence. That is, I was your quintessential
nerd " totally consumed by my studies. I had friends, of course, but nothing
serious " certainly no girlfriend.
Physics was the love of my life, and for years it looked
as if it would always be that way. But then Laurel showed
up, and suddenly, whole rooms in my life " ones that had been dark and dead until then " were suddenly lit up! First, the "boyfriend" then the "husband"
in me came alive. It was astonishing!
That's the good news. The
bad news is that when Laurel and I tried to have a baby,
we failed over and over again. Finally, we went to the doctor
and he told us we had what is called "unexplained infertility."
Our reproductive systems checked out fine, but for some
mysterious reason, they weren't doing what they were supposed
to. For me, the news was especially devastating because
I'm the last male of my family. Without a son, I knew the
Guillen name would die with me forever.
first, I reproached myself for waiting so long to get started
with married life " for all those years
I'd shunned relationships in favor of pursuing my obsessive
ambition to become a physicist. I prayed and prayed to God
to forgive me and to bless us with a child, but to no avail.
As a result, Laurel and I resigned ourselves to remaining
childless forever " of never knowing what
it is like to be parents.
isn't the end of our story, but before I tell you how it
turned out, I want to finish my message by giving you the
third and final reason why I believe relationships are the
most important thing in life
Reason #3: Relationships are opportunities
to rub elbows with God
definition, relationships " any and all relationships " are based on a loving connection between two or more people. That's a given. But what exactly do we mean by a "loving connection"?
to modern secular society, that "loving connection"
is ultimately "narcissistic" " that is, the name of competition or self-reliance, popular American
culture encourages us to approach relationships armed with
self-centered thoughts like:
"What's in it for me?" or
if I don't look out for myself, then who will?" or
it's nothing personal, it's just business."
Or my all-time favorite ...
need to learn to love myself
before I can learn to love others."
her 1985 pop hit, "Greatest Love of All," that's exactly what Whitney Houston was telling us. Listen to the lyrics:
never found anyone to fulfill my needs ...
I learned to depend on me
found the greatest love of all
of me ...
to love yourself
is the greatest love of all."
that is one way of looking at life. Here is another: According
to modern science, the "love connection" in human
relationships is ultimately "Darwinistic" " that is, when push comes to shove, we inevitably favor those who carry
our genes. "Family comes first" or put another
way, "blood is thicker than water."
narcissistic, Darwinistic or nepotistic ways of approaching
relationships are what I call "bottom-up" relationships.
That is because they are relationships built up from our
own lowly self-interests. Like when we befriend somebody
mainly because we think he can help our career. Or when
we make excuses for our children, even when we know they've done something wrong. Or when we avoid
troublesome customers after
we've made the sale. At the bottom of all bottom-up relationships are our priorities, our ambitions, our genes. Bottom-up relationships
are all about our
interests ... our pleasure ... our profit.
contrast, Jesus said,
"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and
everything else will be given to you as well." (Matthew
other words, God wants us to build our lives ... our relationships
from the top down. First and foremost, He implores,
love Him ... then
everything else will follow automatically.
listen carefully to what I'm saying ... this is crucial ...
challenge is in learning to love God more
challenge is in learning to build our relationships "
including our relationship with ourselves " from the
challenge is in learning to approach people as if they
exist, not just for our purposes,
our pleasure, or our
profit ... but for God's
purposes, God's pleasure, and God's profit.
year ago last March, that realization hit my wife, Laurel,
and I like a cold shower. I'll
never forget it. It was a Sunday and we were sitting in
church listening to our pastor preach from Romans 14:17.
That is the passage that reads, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and
drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy
is, it had been years since Laurel and I had felt the peace
and joy of the Lord in our hearts. Oh sure, we went to church,
read the Bible, and prayed a lot. But our hearts were agitated
and frustrated by our inability to have a family.
that Sunday, it hit us. For years and years, we had been
approaching our desire to have a family completely upside
down. We didn't just want a child; we wanted a child that had our genes, our
looks, and our disposition.
In other words, a "bottom-up child."
home from church that day, Laurel and I looked at each other
and knew exactly what the Lord wanted us to do: Right then
and there we knew He wanted us to adopt. What will always
be amazing to me is that Laurel and I realized it at exactly
the same instant " it is what convinced us that God was talking to us.
we got home, we were so excited that we ran upstairs, booted
up our computer, and spent the rest of the day researching
everything there was to know about adopting an American
child in our state. We didn't eat a thing that day, and barely could sleep that night " that's how excited we were.
early the following morning " a Monday " we sprang out of bed
and called the Department of Social Services. I don't have time to tell you everything that happened, but I can tell you
this: After taking special classes for pre-adoptive parents
... filling out lengthy questionnaires ... sitting for long
interviews ... and being checked out by the police ... last
September, Laurel and I got a call one evening about five
o'clock from a social worker ... telling us she had a four-year
old boy she felt was a perfect match for us.
e-mailed us some pictures of the little boy, and boom! I can tell you truthfully it was love at first
sight. A few weeks later, we got to meet him, and from then
on, our love for each other grew deeper and deeper with
every visit. In fact, the whole getting-acquainted experience
was nothing short of supernatural, because inside of just
a few months, we felt as if we'd
lived together all our lives.
Laurel and I are absolutely convinced that our son was sent
to us by God. When we are with him, we feel God's presence. When we look into his eyes, we see Jesus looking back at
us with a large, loving smile on His face. Unbelievable,
we also see ourselves. It is part of God's glorious miracle
that this child looks and behaves just like us! " our friends are amazed by it. Most importantly, our new son loves
God at least as much as we do -- maybe even more. That's how spiritual he is.
back now on our long and painful effort to have a family,
I wish we had seen the light years sooner. It would have
spared Laurel all those awful injections and medical procedures
that inevitably come with trying to conceive artificially.
But I also understand the delay. Like so many childless
couples, Laurel and I were afraid to adopt. What if the
kid turns out to be a bad seed? What if the kid's
biological parents come back to reclaim him someday? What
if? ... What if? ... What if?
and I had to learn to overcome our fear by trusting God
with every fiber of our being. It took us years, but when
we did that " when we learned to love God first
telling you, everything changed. Suddenly we had the courage
... and the selflessness ... and the faith ... to begin
building a family, not from the bottom up, but from the
top down. In effect, when we learned to love God first, our whole
life was turned upside down. Hallelujah!
about you? Are you still approaching relationships from
the bottom up? Do you find yourself approaching people with
a subtle yet selfish agenda? Are you afraid to reach out
to certain people " the homeless, the orphan, the troubled friend " just because of how they might unsettle your life or rob you of your
precious time? If so, believe me, I understand " I've been there.
what Laurel and I went through, I'm absolutely convinced top-down
relationships are God's way of getting to
know us ... and us Him.
old friend you haven't heard from in years who
needs a favor from you.
relative who didn't come to your wedding but now
wants you to come to his.
obnoxious boss who works you too hard and pays you too
aren't relationships we
are inclined to embrace " they don't serve our
selfish purposes in any obvious way. Yet, just because we
don't really see their purpose in our lives doesn't mean they don't have any. They do.
approached from the top down have a purpose.
morning, I believe God is speaking to you heart the way
he did to Laurel's and mine on that
fateful Sunday sixteen months ago. This morning, I believe
God is tugging at your conscience ... bidding you to venture
out of your comfort zone ... to reach out to others, the
way you'd want them to reach
out to you if you were
lonely ... or depressed ... or in need of a family or friend.
Hebrews 12:1-2, we are told: "Keep
on loving each other as brothers [and] do not forget to
entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained
angels without knowing it ..."
the little five-year old stranger-angel who now calls me
daddy. Thank you, and may God bless you. Amen.