Ever found yourself investing deeply in a relationship, only to watch it crumble before your eyes? We’ve all been there.
Whether it’s a personal connection or a community, relationships built solely on fleeting feelings are destined to fail. Like a ship without a compass, they’re adrift, vulnerable to attack and termination.
In his book Rooting Out Relationship Killers, author Stephen Matthew says this…
We are all tempted to enter significant relationships based on a good feeling, a wave of enthusiasm, an emotional impulse or the promise of personal gain. But, like them, it is always doomed to fail unless we have a vision for the relationship and a thought-through, considered plan to act as a frame of reference for when problems occur – because they will.
What could be
New relationships can be excited. If they feel compatible, there’s a rush of adrenaline based on anticipation of what could be. Depending on how much time is spent together, that “romantic period” as some people call it, of really getting to know each other could last months to years.
This happens with both personal relationships as well as the church you choose to be a part of.
But as we all know, feelings are fleeting. They can change on a whim as we have new experiences, make new discoveries and experience more of each other – the good and the bad.
Like a wave, they come on strong and then dissipate sometimes just as quickly as they appeared. It’s at this point that relationships are vulnerable to attack and termination.
When the investment that is made in relationships is impulsive, they are prone to an unhappy ending. When rough patches happen, what’s the glue holding you together?
This is why having no shared vision is a relationship red flag.
When there isn’t agreement when it comes to what the relationship is about, why it exists, what its purpose is and the guiding principles you will live by, you’re investing in relationships based on the random chance that there will be alignment.
More often than not, there isn’t.
Before you invest heavily in a close relationship, whether that be personal or a community, the most important things in life should be fully thought through, discussed and agreed upon. You’ll increase the chances for long-term survival.
When this doesn’t happen, you end up investing in relationships that never had a chance.
What is it built on?
What were you committed to in the first place? Having fun together? That won’t carry you through difficult times when it’s simply not fun.
When these times do occur, the relationship is exposed for what it is built on. Without a shared, agreed-upon vision and plan for the relationship, that’s not much. Typically, one or both parties quickly abandon ship because they find themselves in a sea of confusion.
On a personal note, I look back on my life and see just how responsible I am for doing this. There are relationships I’ve invested in for a decade or more and have come to find out the other person didn’t really want to be close to me.
There are churches I’ve invested in thinking we were working from the same vision, only to find out years later that there were fundamental differences that made doing life together impractical.
In most cases, the signs were always there. But I based my commitment on assumptions and feelings of what could be. I didn’t examine close enough. There was no shared vision and plan that established the boundaries and principles that we would fall back on.
The result is short-sighted decisions of where to invest time, money, energy and attention based on what feels good. And when small problems start to happen, we rely on quick fixes to keep the feelings alive rather than using it as an opportunity to examine the shared vision together.
Not anything goes
Proverbs 29:18 says…
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…
Basically, this means that “anything goes.” Shared vision means that not anything goes. It means that you’re subject to it. This constrains us positively to what we’ve agreed upon and committed to. This is what it means to submit to Christ. It’s also what it means to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). Without it, you won’t have unity.
So establish vision strongly before you start investing deeply into any sort of relationships – whether individual or communal. If you don’t, move on.
How we’ll do life together
Address the hard questions of life that inevitably act as foundations for how people do life together. Waiting until circumstances come along that make you examine the vision everyone has will likely result in a lot of heartache and repeating cycles of starting over.
No, this doesn’t mean the day you meet someone you start asking for detailed answers to life’s big questions. The intentionality you take with this should be in line with the investment you’re thinking of making in the relationship.
The deeper you’re looking to be involved with a person or group of people, the more important this becomes.
By making sure this is in place, you’ll not only save yourself a lot of wasted investment, the relationships that do develop within a commitment to a shared vision will both thrive and survive.