Kyle Bonenberger and his wife, Lisa Ramsland Bonenberger, are experts on love and forgiveness.
A few years ago they planted City Church in Anaheim, CA. They speak, encourage, council, write, and give relational advice daily. Not to mention their credentials speak for themselves. Kyle is currently working towards his M.Div from Talbot Seminary and Lisa recently graduated from Talbot with a Master’s in Counseling. Lisa and I are both graduates of Biola University, and I had the pleasure of meeting them through Lisa’s mother, Marcia Ramsland, my mentor! Marcia is the one who named me the “Devotional Diva!”
My first question to them, “What does love mean to you as a married person? When you were single?”
Kyle said, “Love as a married person = Sacrifice. Love as a single person = Attraction.” Lisa said, “Love as a married person means to selflessly give of yourself, time, resources and preferences. Putting another person’s desires above my own. It also means to respect my husband’s decisions, learn when to talk and when to listen. Love as a single person means to orient and invite someone into your life. To desire to spend time with them and share whom you are risking rejection from them or their family.
“Have either one of you ever had your heart broken?” I asked.
Kyle said, “Two times before. The first time, I was in high school. At the time, I remember being shattered and thinking that my life would never be put back together. The second one was a mutual heartbreak; but the pain of it lasted a long time.”
Lisa said, “At a young age, I knew I wanted to get married and tried to only be in relationships where I could see myself with that person long-term. My first significant relationship started in high school and lasted through part of college. My second significant relationship started in college and ended in a broken engagement one month before I was to graduate from college. I did have relationships after college, but there was a period of two and a half years where I decided to intentionally not date and heal my broken heart.”
I asked them, “What did heartbreak feel like? Were you sad/depressed? Did you stay bitter? How did you overcome?”
Kyle said, “Of course I was sad. Of course I was depressed. I think you have to go through a grieving process like anything in life. It’s accepting that something in your life died. The hardest part is actually grieving the event like a death.”
Lisa said, “I agree with Kyle that breaking up throws a person into a grieving process. Grieving a person, relationships, and the DREAM that the person might have been the one! It feels like your heart is being ripped out and sometimes it can be hard for life to seem like it will get better. It is especially hard because you have common friends and don’t usually see their family after you break-up. After going through a break-up there are a lot of feelings and emotions you experience. Bitter was something I never wanted to be. Bitterness is like a root that grows inside of us and hurts us and those around us, not them. I overcame by surrounding myself with supportive friends, praying, journaling, fasting, getting a mentor and focusing on something new.”
“Do you feel it is easier to forgive yourself or others?”
Kyle said, “For me, it’s easier to forgive other people than myself. I grew up in a home where a lot of things weren’t the ‘traditional’ way, so I had to learn forgiveness as a young child. My mom was a therapist also, so she was really good at teaching us to forgive each other and talk through things. All that to say, forgiving other people is second nature for me, forgiving myself is not as easy; but it is not a huge struggle for me either.
Lisa said, “Forgiveness is a hard one for me. I see life as black and white, right and wrong. I try not do anything wrong to hurt people, so when I do and need to apologize, it is harder to forgive myself than others.”
“When love hurts do you find that you blame God?” I asked.
Kyle said, “I am an external processor. When love hurts for me, I need to talk to people about it. I need to “re-hash” situations verbally until God helps me make some “sense” of them. It may be tremendously frustrating to others; but it’s something I need to sort through inside myself. My wife processes internally, so I can stress her out with my verbal processing. I have a guy friend that I verbally process with. That helps.”
Lisa said, “I am an internal processor. When love hurts my reaction is not to blame God but to process. People hurt people because we are hurt people. We do something to hurt another person and that happens to us. I ask God to help me forgive, heal and move on as quickly as possible. Most times it seems to be a process and the older I get the more I realize that time does help heal a wound.”
I asked, “What would you say to a single person who is currently struggling with a past hurtful relationship?”
Kyle said, “I have no advice other than get involved in a small group at a church and find someone who you can call at 10pm when you’re tempted to call your ex and blab your face off to. Without that, it’s lonely. God works in the midst of pain; but you have to have a lot of people in your life to heal from a break-up like that.”
Lisa said, “If a relationship has ended, the only option is to move forward. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay in your pajamas for a week and not put on make-up, but at some point you will have to decide to move forward. This may require moving, getting a new job, finding a new church and/or new friends. It is about taking it one day at a time and making one healthy decision after another.”
“Do you feel sexual sin is possible to overcome? Do you find it’s easier to be single or married?”
Kyle said, “I think you can grow in it; but a lot of the issues stem from childhood. People get stuck in sexual sin and wonder why they can’t get out; but they don’t want to address the root issue. Accountability is good, counseling is good, but honesty is the BEST. You can be involved in all these things and not be honest about it and never change. Yes. It’s possible to overcome it; but the person has to want to change. It’s the GORILLA in the room for many of us.”
Lisa said, “Healing isn’t going to happen in one counseling session, but it is possible. It is hard to compare singleness to marriage. Every season of life can be easy or hard. In some ways singleness is easier, but in other ways marriage is easier. Once you get married, you never have to worry about going on a first date, but you have to know you committed to going on a date for the rest of your life with the same person.”
“How do you think love can change the world?” I asked.
Kyle said, “I think a person’s story and a couple’s story can make a difference in someone’s life. Sharing about the love of God through our story is a lost art.”
Lisa said, “Love starts with us as individuals then can be as a couple, and then as a family to love people unconditionally as best as we can. If we’re all other’s minded then it can make a difference in the place God has us.”