Connecting shouldn’t be so hard, but mostly it is. I’ll admit, not for everyone. But it is enough of an issue that many books have been written about the subject. There are apps for your phone and services on the internet to try to help bridge the gap between strangers. Some of those, unfortunately, lead to situations where loneliness turns into harm or even criminality. But even the danger of that potential doesn’t keep people away. Because as hard as connecting might be, being alone is even harder.
I’d like to say that church is a great place to connect with others, and it should be. Actually, it is, for many people. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to locate a good number of people who sit in church and feel alone in the crowd. Finding the sources of dis-connect is not very difficult.
People feel disconnected because face to face conversation is becoming rarer. Even now I’m communicating with you from behind a screen. Facebook could never survive if it were really Face-To-Facebook. And I hope some people would never say in person what they’re willing to pound out on the keyboard in a flurry of angst and anger. I wish they wouldn’t type it either, but that’s another post.
People feel disconnected because life to life intersections are brief. We are in a hurry. No matter how many posts I read encouraging us to slow down and smell the roses, there aren’t many people taking that advice. So my communications with real humans are brief, terse, to-the-point. If they last too long there is an intrusion on the next appointment. The rush lasts all day until the end of day when we crash and try to grab too-little sleep before it starts all over again. Relationships take time. We don’t have any to spare.
People feel disconnected because the word on the street is that people are dangerous, people are users, and people are haters. I don’t believe it, except when I’m not paying attention. Just a few minutes with the news will tell me that we have reached the end of social relationships and community kindness. Most of the shows presented for our viewing pleasure involve killing, theft, kidnapping, explosives, abuse and the general degradation of humanity. Even if it all wraps up in the hour, next week we are back to it. The message is pounded into our minds … you are in danger, you have no real friends, you are being used, and people generally hate one another.
Now that I’ve succinctly diagnosed our culture in one blog post, I wonder if there are any connecting factors we can find. In spite of the walls thrown up all around us, I don’t think humans are best when they are alone. And everyone seems to know it. So where do we go from here? It’s hard to say for every individual, but generally, I think we have to accept three things if we want to be in connection with other people.
~Connecting With Others~
We have to accept that relationships cause pain. If we want a pain-free existence, then we can’t entrust our hearts and friendship to other humans. It is just part of the human condition that we let each other down, we sometimes speak careless words, and we sometimes flat-out fail to be what we could be. By this, I do not mean we should endure purposeful infliction of pain. I do mean, though, that it is impossible to avoid pain totally if we want to be connected to others. Relationships are risky but worth it.
We have to accept that the great benefit of connection outweighs the risk. Jesus spoke to a woman who came to draw water at a well at noon. I question her timing in the desert climate, but I guess there was a purpose to it. Who else is going to be drawing water at noon? Nobody. Perfect timing for someone who felt like a reject – and honestly was probably treated like a reject except for the one person she lived with. In her conversation with Jesus, he revealed that he knew she had endured five marriage breakups. Five. Maybe some had died, but surely not all. What moves a woman toward connecting when she has lost it four times? Then five times? I admit there could be a lot of cultural questions and strategies for survival in the background of this story but it remains that she kept trying to find a meaningful connection. when she found out who Jesus was she ran to town to tell those people – perhaps the very people who had looked down their noses at her – that she had found the Messiah. The importance of connection even pushed her over the boundary of potential rejection!
We have to accept that connection is not just for other people. Some people reading this will say, “true, but not for me.” But no matter who we are, what we’ve done, how we think others see us, or whatever else is standing in our way of reaching out, everyone needs a connection. Earlier in this post I mentioned church. The one place that the church excels beyond other connecting places is that everyone there has a common connection in Jesus Christ. This, even more than religious practices or beliefs or forms, is what connects believers. It’s the one place where an 80-year-old and a 20-year-old can find a connection that transcends culture and peculiar interests. Jesus connects all together. If the spirit you found at the bar didn’t leave you filled, perhaps the Spirit you find at the Church may make a real difference in your life.
~A Place for Sinners Saved By Grace~
I’m not saying that if we all just go to church then all our connecting struggles will be solved. But I am saying that there’s a spiritual level of connection that alleviates loneliness and reminds us that we are all in the same boat. Sinners saved by grace is our banner. That’s an inclusive and warm invitation to find connection outside of the rat-race of human scrambling for wealth, achievement, business, and recognition. Church causes us to stop, rest, reflect, converse, and receive blessing. It calls us to community … connection … face to face talking and caring. No, not perfectly. Its kind of risky joining for the first time. If you’ve been a part of church for a long time but still feel lonely, it’s time to explore either some avenues (ministries) within the church where you can build relationships around common efforts. We have to admit there are some unhealthy church communities where finding friends is not really an option. So either way, choose to be a part of a church to find connection. And it may not be the only solution. Connecting shouldn’t be that hard, but it mostly is.
Out here hope remains, JED.
Photo Credit: unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo