I used to believe relationship building was a skill that some people have and some people don’t. But now I see more clearly; relationship building is not a skill, it’s a desire. If you want great relationships, you will get them. When we say, “I’m not good at building relationships,” we never have to work at letting people into our hearts.
The Spirituality of Emotion
But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Romans 10:8-10 (NIV)
The heart is the seat of our emotions, so if we do not deal with our emotions we will fail to deal with our hearts. When we fail to deal with our hearts, we will be incapable of developing or sustaining faith.
To become a Christian, we have to deal with our hearts. Superficial conversions where we don’t really deal with our emotions lead to superficial relationships. Our attitudes in relationships often reveal how much we have dealt with our hearts. For example, if we are compliant and afraid to say what we think, that’s a sign that we are not really dealing with our hearts. We know our heart has been reached when we feel compelled internally to grow and change.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
2 Corinthians 5:14
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Do you have an emotional connection with God? Do you feel any emotions about God? Do you cry out to God, versus fixing things independently? Independence often masks a hard heart.
We need emotional connections, and we need them with God first. If we don’t have emotional connections with God, it’s doubtful we’ll have a strong connection to any of our friends. We’ll start to make people into idols instead of real friends.
To be truly spiritual, we need to deal with our emotions. Many of us grew up in homes that were full of violent emotion, or completely devoid of emotion, so we want to separate out our feelings from God. We don’t want to have to deal with our hearts. But we feel a lot of emotion on a daily basis; we can feel deeply depressed even when our favorite sports team loses. Are you dealing with your emotions today? If not, your heart is hardening.
What do Emotions Mean?
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Emotions are a warning sign that something else is going on. Most Americans and those Americanized by our culture don’t want to let our emotions out, until we attend a concert or a movie or other event that triggers emotions. We feel that these emotions are safe, because they are about the movie, not about anything personal.
Emotions are unbelievably messy, and that’s often why we don’t like them. In fact, we can grade ourselves by how clean our lives were of emotion that day, instead of how truthful we were that day. We definitely do this in marriage; we judge how well our marriage is going by how many fights we had or didn’t have that day. But the truth is that if we are not arguing in marriage, someone is hardening their heart.
Messy conversations are the way to grow spiritually. The more truthful we are, the more messy it will be.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
We will not do well spiritually unless we have deep relationships.
Deep relationships are based on the Bible, and the Bible will make me face things I often don’t want to face. It reveals the truth of who I am, what I am struggling with, and tells me where I can and should go. It can make me very uncomfortable.
For example, let’s talk about traveling. I knew a kid whose dad traveled a lot, and I asked him how he felt about that. He said, “Well, I guess his travel helped me learn to live without him.”
Every time we disconnect from people, distance grows. Reconnecting takes hard work. If we want deep relationships, we may need to face some hard truths. Depth takes courage, but it is well worth the effort.
But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Happiness is having a best friend.
If the person I think is my best friend doesn’t know all my secrets, it’s a lie. Depth takes courage.
Deep Relationships involve 3 questions:
- Where is your heart?
- What drives your behavior?
- What are your symptoms?
Where Is Your Heart
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
Mark 7:6-8 (NIV)
Let’s take marriage as an example of what happens when our hearts are far from each other. Oppression in marriage is when we don’t feel like we can say what we think, what we feel, and we get bitter living a life we hate.
Wives seek connection. Husbands either reject it (oppress emotions/truth), or accept it (learn to have depth and joy.) Strong women say “I will not be welcome mat.” A women wants a deep relationship and brings emotion to the table.
It’s the same with God. We can choose whether we will allow emotion into the relationship or reject the relationship altogether.
What Drives Your Behavior?
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
Mark 7:17-19 (NIV)
Ask yourself: What’s underneath the surface? What motivates me? Get to the root of why you do what you do.
What Are Your Symptoms?
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
Mark 7:20-22 (NIV)
Sins are a symptom. Anger is a sign of deep discouragement. Immorality is a sign of deep loneliness. Hate and bitterness can be incredible drivers of behavior. Bitterness in marriage leads to adultery… eventually.
The question isn’t what sins have we done, but what’ s driving it all?
Do You Want Deep Relationships?
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)
Love one another deeply.
Ask yourself these 3 questions and make a decision today about how God wants you to start building deep relationships.
- Where is your heart?
- What drives your behavior?
- What are your symptoms?