~ Going Deeper in Relationships ~
As we began the new year, we extended a challenge to “launch out into the deep” and applied the phrase as a metaphor to encourage leaving the safe familiarity of the shallows and risk going deeper with God in 2020. Because the obvious question confronting us initially is how to do that, one of the areas we suggested targeting was the realm of personal relationships. Every endeavor we undertake is affected to some degree by the nature and quality of the interactions we have with those around us.
For most of us, the greatest joys life has to offer and the deepest sorrows we ever endure are experienced in the context of our basic relationships. Because they harbor such powerful potential, a quest for deeper understanding about how relationships work would make sense. If we could identify ways to maximize their inherent joy and minimize their painful dark side, then life overall could have a brighter outlook. But given the multitude of possible categories and types of relationships that exist, we’re often left scratching our heads about where to begin. Building relationships is like constructing physical buildings in some ways, so maybe an analogy from the construction world might be helpful. Going deeper in that context would eventually take us down to the foundation, so contemplating foundations is a good place to start.
That Vital First Step ~
When planning a house or any other major construction project, one of the first tasks is to design and create a foundation that will support whatever will be built on it. It doesn’t take a degree in engineering to realize that laying an adequate foundation is a vital first step. The size of the foundation and the material used in it not only define the future building’s external dimensions, but more importantly, they establish how much weight can be applied to it. The security of every part of the building ultimately depends on the quality of the foundation upon which it rests. Interestingly, the role of the foundation is not to dictate the value or quality of the material used in the future building’s construction. A building can be composed of the costliest and most ornate material available, but if the foundation crumbles, the whole thing is in trouble. Relationships are that way, too. Regardless of how impressive either buildings or relationships might look on the exterior, if the foundation is seriously flawed, an ultimate collapse is almost certain.
Since most of us don’t plan to go into the housing industry, the relevant question before us is how to determine what kind of foundation our relationships are built on, and how to ensure that they are adequately supported. I would suggest avoiding Google or any of the other digital search engines if you’re looking for a reliable answer. It makes much more sense to consult the One who not only invented the concept of relationships, but whose ultimate objective was to establish an eternal relationship with us and who paid an incalculable price to make it available.
A Common Foundation ~
Several key relationships have much to do with our success in any endeavor we undertake, and they all share the same basic foundation and core components. The first and most vital of all is our relationship with God himself. If we lack that one, then all the rest are vulnerable and unstable at critical points. Claiming to have a personal relationship with God is easy. Lots of people do it every day but that doesn’t always mean that such a relationship actually exists. Many Pharisees, for instance, declared that God was their father, but Jesus boldly contradicted their claim and revealed the frightening truth.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. …You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:42-44 (NKJV)
The Pharisees were widely revered as holy men of God, but the truth was that they engaged in religious bigotry and used spiritual manipulation to extort and control the people. When God came into their midst and displayed grace and truth in living human flesh, they hated Him and sought to kill Him. The practice of hiding selfishness, greed, and hatred behind a facade of overt religious expression didn’t end with the Pharisees. That has gone on in every age and culture and plays out around us every day.
A Conditional Arrangement ~
The first step in going deeper in our relationships is to honestly determine whether we really have an intimate connection with God. A personal relationship with Him does not come into existence simply because we declare it to be so. God’s invitation to an eternal relationship with Him is open to all, but it is conditional. Only those who recognize their hopeless, sinful condition and are willing to turn away from their sins and trust Jesus as Savior are received into that relationship.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 (NKJV)
Having a personal and actively functioning relationship with God through Jesus Christ doesn’t make us pragmatically perfect in everything we do. Our daily walk through this chaotic, sin-laden world is filled with challenges, and our latent sin nature is drawn to things that are detrimental to us and to our relationships with others. But knowing Jesus Christ establishes some foundational realities that enhance the prospects for every other relationship we have. For instance:
- Jesus Christ enables a level of honesty and other-centered love that strengthens every relationship.
- In His Word we have an authoritative and unshakeable standard for truth that is applicable in all our relationships.
- His Word also provides clear guidelines that allow us to distinguish between right vs. wrong and good vs. evil in every relationship and every endeavor.
- He has established relational boundaries and restrictions to protect us from toxic and destructive interactions.
- We have a process by which to reconcile and restore broken relationships when problems arise.
- We have hope and a recourse for help whenever we fail.
Going deeper in our relationships involves more than just acknowledging Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour. The lure of the shallows urges us to keep our Christianity compartmentalized, to relegate the “church stuff” to a couple of hours on Sunday so it doesn’t clutter up our professional life or offend people, or get in the way of other things we might want to do. Deeper water, on the other hand, extends a challenge, but it also offers a promise. The challenge is to consciously make our relationship with Him so much a part of who we are that He is never extricated from anything we do. The promise is that we’ll never be abandoned and His power is greater than any storm that might arise.
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- “Deeper water extends a challenge, but it also offers a promise. The challenge is to consciously make our relationship with Him so much a part of who we are that He is never extricated from anything we do. The promise is (read more ….)” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Knowing Jesus Christ establishes foundational realities that enhance the prospects for every other relationship we have. He has established relational boundaries and restrictions to protect us from toxic and destructive interactions.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Knowing Jesus Christ establishes foundational realities that enhance the prospects for every other relationship. We have a process by which to reconcile and restore broken relationships when problems arise, and a hope and a recourse for help whenever we fail.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Consciously make our relationship with God so much a part of who we are that He is never extricated from anything we do. Deeper water offers a promise … We’ll never be abandoned, and God’s power is greater than any storm that might arise.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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© 2020 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.