In their book Real Relationships: From Bad to Better and Good to Great, Lee and Leslie Parrott make the argument that a solid sense of who you are is the foundation, the critical element needed to form true and lasting relationships:
“If you try to find intimacy with another person before achieving a sense of identity on your own, all your relationships become an attempt to complete yourself.”
Without knowing yourself, it is only possible to reach a false and fleeting sense of emotional closeness with another, which is very typical of a temporary attachment.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus uses types of soil to represent different character types and the development of their relationship with him. Do you see yourself in this story? Are you the same kind of soil that you were years ago?
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain …
[Jesus explained] The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. Mark 4:3–7, 14–19 (NLT)
Shallow soil. That’s what we are if we don’t know ourselves. If we don’t dig into ourselves to find, tear down, and heal those things that are keeping us from growing a deep root system.
If we don’t know what kind of soil we are cultivating and won’t admit to the obstructions we allow or have placed in it, we will continue to be shallow soil. We will be able to experience fleeting times of great joy, but they won’t last—our roots are too shallow.
We need to develop a deep root system, with a main tap root into the Holy Spirit who inhabits every Christian. So we look at what is occupying the soil of our souls, remove what doesn’t belong, and replace it with the fertile loam of God’s word and his loving promises to us—this is the process of sanctification.
With that kind of self-knowledge, we can grow in the knowledge of God. Deepening the relationship between ourselves and God requires a sense of identity, a willingness to ask God to show us why our soul’s soil is so shallow, and a willingness to allow Him to fill us up with rich, fruitful earth. We, in turn, will learn more and more about how wide, how deep, how strong, how pervasive God’s love is—a love we can rely on. Listen to more of Jesus’ words in the parable.
Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! … And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Mark 4:8, 20 (NLT)