This week I dug deep into research on the power of having significant caring people intimately involved in our lives. The scientific, sociological, and Biblical wisdom all agree: We are not meant to be alone.
Indivdiualism is greatly admired in American culture. Throughout the Bible God calls us to community and loving relationships.
Jesus spoke to the disciples that the distinquishing quality of Christians is "know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another" John 13:35.
Throughout the entire New Testament I see the workings of the Holy Spirit to create the Church, a community of people knitted together in strong trusting lasting faithful relationships.
Robert D.Putnam wrote a book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, a few years ago. He wrote that we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors and community groups. He reports in the past decades:
Membership in clubs has declined 58%
Families eating together at dinner has declined by 33%
- Having friends over has declined by 45%
We live in an increasingly isolated society. No wonder many report "feeling lonely" as one of their main problems. Unfortunately, we hear people working primarily to look out for "number one." In fact, some people think it unwise to entangle themselves in commitments, relationships and groups that could place too many demands on them.
George Barna identified a growing trend in Christians in his book, Revolution. Some folks have come to believe that the best way to live a Christian life is in isolation from any parish or church. They have assumed that they can pray, act and understand their own faith without the bother of others or an organized church."There is a new breed of Christ-follower in America today," Mr. Barna announces. "These are people who are more interested in being the Church than in going to church."
His research has "discovered and described a growing national population of more than 20 million adults who are committed to living their faith and making God the top priority in their life. Some are doing so through the ministries of a local church, but many are not. The emphasis is upon allowing God to transform them in every aspect of their life."
I have to confess some of my greatest relationship hurts have occured in church. The challenges are great with the many different people in church.
Yesterday a woman I admire mentioned that she keeps up boundaries to avoid pain. I chuckled and said, "How's that working for you?" I told her, "I laid all those down years ago. I got tired of the disappointment."
When we become involved with others, we will be hurt. Relationships mean pain, as well as joy. But as I have shared all week....the joy and the pain is the very fiber of real living. The abundant life God has promised and provided for us has pain and joy!!!
C. S. Lewis put it well:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell.
Surrendering to God has opened me up to others: Through God's work in my life He is transforming me. I can coming to know "If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (1 John 4:20). Every day I desire to be on good terms with all those in my life. Whenever there is a tear in a relationship, God heals our hurts. He is showing me how to be faithful and true in the Church, His Body.
Serving God. The vibrant adventurous passion I have to connect with God's calls and to the people He desires for me to know and serve is amazing. I can see that God has wisely chosen to use the hard work of relationships to force me to confront my own spiritual poverty honestly and in a safe and loving community.
Putnam had some observations that I believe give us hope and understanding on how we got here and what we can do to better connect with others: " A variety of technological, economic, and social changes rendered obsolete ways of relating to each other," Putnam said. "In both cases, Americans felt materially better off than their parents had been, but they also felt disconnected."
- Reduce TV viewing and spend more time talking with others
- Attend church more frequently.
Find Christians you trust to discuss your fears and what you can do to resolve your fears.
- Join a group: tennis club, book club, bowling league, a civic or community group, volunteer group for charities .
We slowly slid to isolation with more women entering the workforce, family caregivers found they had less time on their hands, television brought easy entertainment into people's living rooms, and urban sprawl meant people spent more time driving in their cars and less walking on their neighborhood streets.
With all of this research reaching leaders and influencers there is a change stirring in the air. On many levels people are beginning to form small caring groups in many areas. As a Christian I have concluded unless imprisoned away from others I must be connected in loving community with others.