The Illusion of Connection

When’s the last time you had a deep and honest conversation? I don’t mean a discussion about the existential, political, or decisions made in life. I also don’t mean an email, blog, or text message. 

When is the last time you had a meaningful conversation where you explored the depths of your heart? One where you wrestled with your past, hoped for the future, sorted through your brokenness?

I can honestly say, It’s been a long time. Yes, conversations with my wife from time to time when we are not working, cleaning, parenting. Unfortunately, even deep discussions with a spouse aren’t givens.

We create giant social circles. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TicToc, Reddit, and the list goes on with different platforms, all creating little communities. Groups in Facebook that provide support and connection. Social media has become a place where we can emotionally vomit (I don’t mean this negatively) and feel like just maybe someone is listening. We enter text conversation with the picture to whom we are talking to in our minds as we stare at screens with green and blue text bubbles.

These mediums are not wrong in themselves. All of these platforms can create pseudo-micro communities and allow us to connect with people we never dreamed of or at least a neighbour or long lost high school friend. 

However, we must not forsake a real conversation with a real person, where we can hear the inflection in their voice, and they can see the joy/pain/triumph/sorrow in our eyes. Jonathan Grant writes, 

…it raises the question of whether social media is stimulating genuine relationships or just simulating them. Are we sharing our lives with others, or are we just broadcasting them? Are we learning the rhythms of intimacy, or are we too busy pleasing the adoring crowd?

I fear it is the latter, yet we delude ourselves in believing the former. Perhaps we are innately aware of this delusion, and that’s why we are still such lonely people. The illusion of connection can be a devastating ailment. It is one that I fear has captured our current planet.

If connection is food, then Socials, text, and email are potato chips. Chips (as we like to call them in Canada) are delicious and are of the more healthy of the junk foods, after all, they are made from potatoes and potatoes are vegetables. Though they are delicious, you cannot have a diet of chips. We need actual food. 

We need an actual connection with each other.

When we don’t get it, we search in other places. Russell Brand writes, 

Think of it: the bliss of a hit or a drink or of sex or of gambling or eating, all legitimate drives gone awry, all a reach across the abyss, the separateness of ‘self’, all an attempt to redress this disconnect.

I believe this is why the writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering of believers. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in perfect community, so we, created in the image of the triune God, were created for community and connection. Mark Waltz points out,

“To be human is to be spiritual. To be spiritual is to be relational. We are connected, like it or not.”

We need each other. Whether we feel weak or strong, we are in this together. How can we speak to the deep recesses in others’ souls if we never have a conversation and never dare to be vulnerable enough to make a valued connection?

Your socials are fine but don’t be duped and trade for the illusion at the expense of a genuine human connection. It’s hard, but if you’re willing to invest, you’ll find it’s worth it.

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Think Humbly

I think we could all use a little more humility in our life. After all, we don’t have all the answers. We are not infallible. We’re not omniscient.

Hopefully, your mind changes a lot about a lot of different things.

It is because of this that when we look at real-life events, say when someone holds a belief you can’t get down with or there is a dramatic conversion of a public figure. We can be quick to judge.

Should we judge? I think accountability is a better word. That, however, is a subject saved for a different day.

The reality is we all hold opinions, much of which will change. Even some of the things that you hold onto as firm truths will probably shift if not completely flip within your lifetime.

This is why humility is so necessary.

We often stand in judgement of those who hold the opposite opinion of us. Whether it be political, theological, methodological, metaphysical, etc. and view those on the opposite side as the enemy. I hear things like, “I can’t believe someone would believe that” often. While there are some parameters, I can make the logical assumption I will never go there, many of the disagreements in the world are merely perspective.

I like how Russell Brand defines humility in his book Recovery,

“Humility is the acknowledgement of our relative insignificance—our insignificance when compared to the infinite, or even all the other people currently alive.”

We must always remember that our perspective is just that, our perspective. It holds as much value as anyone else’s. The Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal priest, points out that as Christians, we only have one posture,

“Humility reestablishes the truth about ourselves; it acknowledges that our place is not over others but under them.”

If we are to be servants first, it means that we are not to lord over others, forcing our opinions upon them. In humility and with the posture of a servant, we are to seek to understand where others are coming from. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did?

Jesus said,

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

If Jesus came to serve, how much more should we? The thing is, we cannot serve people we are judging. We cannot love people who we view as disrepute. We must humble ourselves and see others as humans. Not objectifying them to an opinion, side, or any other category we can conjure, but seeing them as children of God, who like us are broken, get some things wrong and get some things right.

We need to take the approach of High Middle Ages German-Dutch theologian Thomas von Kempis who penned,

“If you have any good qualities, believe that other people have better ones.”

If we had this approach, maybe there would be less fighting and more understanding. Maybe there would be less name-calling and more serving. Maybe we would cast others aside less and embrace more.

Humility is hard. It’s difficult to admit you don’t have all the answers, or at least all the right ones. When we see ourselves and others for what we are, children of God, not perfect but loved, every interaction will begin to change. If we let humility change our life, it can change the world.

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Addict in Recovery Church

Recently while working on a message for my church on the “ROI of Church” I came across this quote from Russell Brand’s book Recovery,

“When my disease is on me, the loneliness and hopelessness seem real. One of the first measures I can take to alleviate it is to reach out to another addict.”

Russell Brand

It reminded me of a thought that I’ve had for a long time.

We’re all addicts.

Every.

Single.

Person.

Whether it is something destructive, visible and socially ho-hum or something that is seen as necessary, discrete, and socially praised, we are all addicted to something.

Maybe it’s drugs or alcohol, or perhaps it’s love and affection. Maybe it’s sex or pornography, or perhaps it’s success and praise. It’s time we realize we are all addicts.

I believe that when we begin to recognize that we’re addicts and we decide to start to live in a community of people who realize we are all in recovery, we begin to see fullness and freshness come to our faith and thus, our churches. The church thus acts as a place of recovery, not a place where no one needs to recover.

If each of us would recognize that we are all equally broken, just manifesting it in different ways, I wonder how much more open we would be to “reach out to another addict” as Brand states, and them to us.

In Luke 15, it tells the story of two brothers who on the surface appear to be in complete contrast with each other. The younger, brash and seeking instant gratification, spends all his money on hookers and wild living. He finds himself at the end of life’s rope.

The older is righteous and willing to resist instant gratification. This brother stays at home, denying pleasure, and slaving for his father. Of course, the elder brother thinks he doesn’t have a problem. He is responsible. He works hard.

The younger son decided it would be better to return to his father as an apprentice after losing everything and dangling from the end of life’s rope. After all, he says, “even the hired hands live better than me.” He thinks he has to return home and be a slave for his father.

The older after seeing that his father has welcomed his younger brother home, thrown a huge party, and is calling him a son again pouts and declares that he has denied himself all the wild living and chose to slave for his father. To which the father response was that he never was a slave and all he had to do was ask, and everything would be his.

Though it manifests in different ways, both of these brothers suffered from the same sin. Neither brother knew their father’s heart. While one thought he would become a slave, the other lived as one. The only difference is the younger son’s willingness to repent while the elder lived in self-righteousness.

Whether it is self-indulgence or self-righteousness, the sin remains the same. Just as both brothers lived opposed to the father’s desire, so we do too. We are addicted to doing on our own. Whether it is making ourselves feel good or trying to earn God’s love and affection. When we have a community that is willing to admit they have a “self” problem, no matter which end of the spectrum each person finds themselves, we can be an immense help to each other.

When we are tempted to ignore the father’s heart, we would have someone to call.

Let’s be addicts in recovery church.

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