“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline)
I read these lines when I was a freshman in college. They set a course for my life, because as I read them, I determined that I was going to be a deep person. No matter what it took, I was going to be one of them. Its seems like almost everywhere I go, people (especially young adults) are disillusioned by the degree of shallowness in the Church. It can easily become a topic for griping and complaining. Though I can’t say I haven’t ever participated in such ill speech, I realized a long time ago, that unless I was going to proactively be part of the solution, I was merely perpetuating the problem. Many are content with complaining because it is exceedingly easier than radically reorienting your life in the pursuit of a different end.
Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing themselves.” In an age where being extremely shallow and narcissistic has become the norm—where our concepts of reality come from the hyper-idealized world of movies, where our heroes are celebrities who occupy a fantasy world enabled by exorbitant wealth—the only way change will happen is as we personally wrench ourselves out of the spell cast by modern society and begin to dwell deep.
The second principle in this series discussing Principles and Practices for the Spiritual Life is as follows:
Becoming a deep person is the most fruitful long-term approach to loving God and neighbor.
with its negative formulation as follows:
Remaining content with being shallow is not loving or helpful to anyone.
In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” To be connected to the vine, means to draw life-giving nutrients from the source, such that, over an extended period of time, there is a slow and gradual process of growth. It is only this slow and gradual process of growth that produces fruit, and as Jesus says, much fruit. This is what I mean by “becoming a deep person” — unplugging from the hectic mayhem of our narcissistic culture and engaging in a process of growth, whereby, over time, your entire being is both opened to and ultimately flooded with the life-giving presence of Jesus. We can often tell the difference between people who answer problems with cliches, and those who have real, helpful answers; people who are merely repeating the words of another, and those who can speak from the heart; people who wax eloquently about God, and those who seem to have been with God; people who have plastic smiles, and those who can empathize with your pain; people who interact with life in a detached and low-risk manner, and those who have a passion for life, engaging in the full range of its joys and sorrows; people who can network, and those who love affectionately and deeply; people who relate to others on the basis of what they can get, and those who give freely from the heart, laying down their lives for others in love. It is to the latter that we are invited as we open ourselves to God, allowing him to enter deeper into our lives, and in such, we become deep people.