Click on the quote below to read the article...

It is easy for us to forget that most people in the system (even married couples) have never experienced the kind of deep relationships that we tend to take for granted in our community. So what they may regard as a very close, deep relationship would still be regarded as fairly shallow, based on our experiences.

Take families, for example. There seems to just naturally be a very emotional bond between family members. It seems to exist in the oddest circumstances. We once had a boy in our community who had been seriously abused by his father when he was growing up... locked in a room on his own whenever he was not at school, with meals slid in under the door, and regularly beaten with electrical wires. Yet this boy said that when he was taken away from his parents and placed in an institution, he still missed his father, and ran to hug him when his father finally turned up to visit him.

It is easy to mistake this almost genetic emotional bond for a deep relationship. But before we can call a relationship with a blood relative genuinely "deep" we must consider other factors. For example, how deeply do we share with them (or they with us) our inner feelings, aspirations, disappointments, and beliefs? What systems have we worked out to deal with differences in our beliefs, to co-ordinate our activities, and to submit to the counsel of one another? Parents often have a system for getting their children to submit to them, but are slow to submit to the counsel of their children. And when children grow up, they retaliate with a similarly one-sided approach to life. At best, both sides end up going down separate paths, and the relationship becomes even more shallow as a result.

The tendency to express love in terms of material gifts is one indication of how shallow a relationship is. We can accept that material gifts represent a genuine attempt to express love; but we also know that material gifts are one of the most shallow expressions of love. They become virtually unnecessary when people have a really deep relationship (except in circumstances where someone has a genuine material need).

There is a strange paradox with regard to what it takes to discover a deep relationship. It actually involves forsaking the shallow relationship, and working on a relationship with God instead.

Whether it is our parents, our children, our husband or wife, our church friends, our work associates, or anyone else that we think we have a close relationship with, God asks us to forsake that relationship and to replace it with a dependency upon him.

That is because it is our emotional dependency upon all of these supposedly deep relationships that actually makes them so shallow to begin with. When we submit to the breaking of the Holy Spirit, and when we yield ourselves entirely to God, he creates a new self-sacrificing and truly loving dimension to relationships that the average systemite can rarely even imagine. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen.

There are a few verses in the Bible about God offering us things that we cannot even imagine. Some people have used these verses to promote the prosperity gospel. But God is talking about something that we really truly cannot imagine when it comes to relationships. It takes faith to believe that there are dimensions beyond what we have experienced and beyond what we can imagine.

There seem to be no limits to the amounts of money and number and quality of material goods that people are able to imagine. And so those who promote material prosperity just keep asking God for more and more wealth, never finding the satisfaction that can only come when they forsake the quest for wealth altogether. Only when we do forsake that quest will we be able to move into the deeper life of meaningful relationships that God wants to give us.

There have been a few poets and other intellectuals who have commented on the hypocrisy and shallowness of relationships in the world; but even they do not seem to have answers that go to the core of the problem. They would, of course, like others to share deeply and honestly with them, and they would like to be able to do the same; but if others share things that hurt, or if the relationship threatens their wealth, their livelihood, or their life, you will find that even the poets and intellectuals usually run away.

The answer, as we have found it, lies in being able to hear from God the words that we don't naturally want to hear, and to submit to the truth in them. As we have done so, it has been painful spiritually. We have not generally found that it resulted in a happy ending with our natural families, or with our church friends. Even amongst ourselves, there have not always been instant rewards. But, over time, it has drawn us closer to one another as we mutually seek to be totally yielded to God. We have also, been able to see more clearly than before, the causes of the shallowness that exists in most family relationships and in most religious affiliations, and we have found ourselves better equipped to really love these people... even if they do not appreciate or accept the love that we offer.

So the answer to shallow relationships is to (a) start by recognising that they really are shallow, even though they may be quite emotional; (b) let go of the relationship altogether, in obedience to God; and (c) then let God form new relationships if necessary to replace breakdowns in communication with people who only want a shallow relationship.

(See also Forsaking Your Parents.)

Register or log in to take the quiz for this article

Pin It
Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account