Suburban Path; Fredrikstad, Norway
May 20, 2022
I have found that the relationships I have established with people on this earth have brought me the greatest happiness and joy that life can offer. This is despite the fact that when I was young and constantly battling extreme shyness, I wondered whether I would ever even be able to establish any real and lasting friendships at all. I would often think to myself, “What makes people want to establish relationships with certain other people, and why as time passes do they seem to be able to stick together like glue?” To me, in good relationships, there seemed to be an unseen bond of some kind between people that lasted through various trials and tribulations that came their way. In my observation, true and lasting friendships and relationships seemed to exist outside of the tumult of modern life, and because of that, they endured. But what was sustaining them? Was a shy person like me even capable of being a true friend for someone? These questions occupied my young mind, and I especially wondered whether I would ever be able to attract a cute girl to marry and settle down with some day. Many of you reading these words may find yourselves in similar predicaments, especially in light of how modern “relationships” are modeled in today’s world.
In America today, we live in a consumer world, where life is like one gigantic store where many are busied with “shopping” every day to acquire things, and varied services and experiences to make them “happy”. The problem is that whatever brings us happiness today is often short-lived and soon replaced by something else tomorrow. That is what a consumer society does, constantly using what the world has to offer to keep its people happy each day, and to keep the economy healthy and thriving at the same time. A thriving economy requires a constant feeding of money, because it has a voracious appetite! But in this way of life there is no real stability, no peace, and no lasting contentment, only a never ending battle by its citizens to sustain their happiness day by day. This distorted consumer mentality has often slopped over into how we think of and why we participate in human relationships. Are other humans just another consumer commodity, which we use today and discard tomorrow when our personal benefit from them begins to wane? Are these even real relationships, or are they more like mutual exploitations? Is the exploitation of each other the best that relationships have to offer, or are we missing something? Authentic answers to these kinds of questions bring us face to face with what a real relationship actually is.
As I began to mature inside as a young person, I was able to establish two great friendships, one with a neighbor boy and the other with a young man whom I met on the Fresno State College track team and got to know well. These two friendships are still going and enjoyed today, 50-60 years later! What made them last so long were a few key ingredients which actually define what successful and authentic relationships consist of.
First, we found that we liked each other and enjoyed being in each other’s presence, no matter what we were doing. There was a feeling of ease with each other where we didn’t have to put on a performance, but were able to be ourselves without any anxiety or fear. This allowed an openness to flourish where we got to see into each other’s very lives, which revealed just who we were inside. That led to another extremely valuable feature of a great relationship–because of this ease of interacting, we enjoyed spending a lot of time together. Without that investment of time, where varied shared experiences revealed clearly to each other who we were inside, we would not have been able to establish such rich, deep, and long lasting friendships. Real relationships, in a nutshell, are simply the sharing of who we actually are with each other, so that we are interacting with the genuinely real person and not with a facade, performance or image. We were actually sharing ourselves with each other. The establishment of a real relationship takes time, a lot of time. This means that, typically, a person can have only a few great and lasting friendships in a lifetime–all other persons are merely temporary acquaintances.
Real relationships are based on the deep bonding of human spirits, not on an external show of looks, behavior or talk. The latter can easily become deceptions and performances used to present an image to others in the hope of personal gain. Sadly, these kinds of efforts are modeled all too often as seen today on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram, and other similar social media outlets.
Only when honesty is present can two people have a real relationship. Also, one of the key insights into just who a person is requires one to mentally separate a person’s physical body and looks from the person’s spirit dwelling inside. This is particularly important in romantic relationships and marriage. We must always remember that true relationships and love with another person must be primarily with the person living inside their body, and not mostly with their bodily appearance. You must be in love with the person, and not their body, their social status, or their wealth. None of us chose what sort of body we were given by God at birth, but we have everything to do with what sort of character we build up within that spirit that becomes us inside. That is the real you. That is the only you that you are each interacting with in a friendship. It is wise to keep in mind and recall frequently, that when you die your body goes down into the grave, while your spirit goes upward to meet God face to face. No part of the actual you goes into the grave, but has been totally freed from the body.
Since humans are spiritual beings clothed with the body, relationships must be forged spirit to spirit. When we speak to each other on phones we get a good feel what these spirit to spirit relationships are like. Here we have two raw spirits communicating with each other, and where most of the clutter and cacophony of sights and sounds of everyday life must take a backseat, if even only for a few minutes. If these calls are hard for you to initiate and sustain, then you are probably not talking to a good friend.
The raw inner spirits of human beings are truly a marvel and wonder, and to engage with each other this way is exciting and filled with surprises and intrigue. Here we find out quickly that humans are complex and interesting creatures, and that who we are inside draws us closer together to explore and find out more. In true friendships and relationships, people connect spirit to spirit, often transcending the physical world altogether. If people spend a lot of time together like this, they can begin to sense what the other is thinking and what their inner emotions are communicating to you without words. This is a very important realization because our fellowship with God’s spirit takes place in exactly this way. In a real sense we can actually begin to share ourselves with other people spirit to spirit as long as we allow this communication to flow freely, and without our interference. In the same way we can share our spirits with God’s spirit, and allow him to share himself with us. This is actually his goal with people, and those who truly accomplish this connection are people who begin to actually know God. To really know and fellowship with God, we must persist in pursuing this spirit to spirit union. And the Holy Spirit is the key to connecting to God this way, as Jesus explains in the gospel of John, Chapter 14:
“If you love me and obey the commandments I give you, I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete (teacher)–to be with you always: The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, since it neither sees him nor recognizes him; but you can recognize him because he remains with you and will be within you. I will not leave you orphaned;” John 14, 15-18
“On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14, 20-21
What an amazing promise! But I know that it is true, because that is exactly what happened to me almost 50 years ago, and which continues to this day. If you think that your relationship with a best friend is great, and it probably is, your potential friendship with God is far greater.
Yes, real relationships take much time and effort to establish and maintain, and take much time together to accomplish. But know that real relationships between people on earth are only practice for the future. They not only model a deeper relationship with God here on earth through the Holy Spirit, but they are also a prelude to the forever relationships that we will constantly experience with others in Heaven. If you haven’t already begun, start practicing real relationships today–you will never want to turn back! This hidden Truth of life is that good.