How to Meet Your Need for Connection and Love
We continue our sermon series about the resources our faith gives us to feed some of our most basic spiritual hunger. Today we focus on how to meet your need for connection and love–not necessarily Valentiny-romantic love. But to have people who care about us and who we care about. Today is a good day to take stock of your relationships. Are you getting the love, the connections with others that you need? If not, what are you doing to fill in the gaps?
We are built for connection
The scripture says God is love. We are created in the image of God who is love. We’re built for it. Our souls crave it. It is part of our being. We’re built for love and trusting connections with others. I’ve always loved how Genesis 1 says God said, let us make humankind in our image. God is relational–3 in One, however, you want to say it. Father, Son, Holy Spirit or Creator, Sanctifier, Sustainer. We are made in the image of a relational God, designed to relate to each other.
We are genetically predisposed to connect. We are social animals. As a species, we need to be in relation to each other. If our ancestors had not bounded together, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. As individuals we are pretty weak–left on our own we would have been nothing more than free-range saber tooth tiger food. We would have built nothing.
Connecting is difficult
Although we are built with an inherent need for connection, staying connected is difficult. It’s hard to stay in a relationship with anyone because human beings are also flawed. Stay with anyone long enough you will find something that annoys the bejeebers out of you. Stay with anyone a bit longer and you will find something to love and appreciate about anyone.
We divide, separate into our little camps. And then subdivide even further. We cocoon and isolate ourselves. Sometimes we aim in the wrong direction. Instead of doing the hard work of connecting on a deep level, we play it safe, shallow, disconnect. We even have mythology around the rugged individual. The Marlboro Man. Remember the ads? The steely, silent, handsome cowboy. Riding the expansive range, heroically toiling away to do the hard work that needs to be done. All he needs are the tools of his trade. For him, a hat, horse, and pack of smokes. Those ads resonated. They haven’t aired in decades but they are burned into your consciousness. This image of being free, disconnected from all the BS of modern life, of other people. Quit complaining and nobly do what needs to be done.
But there is something misleading about it. I have a friend whose stepfather was one of the Marlboro men. In real life, he was a lot like the character he played. But what it got him was lung cancer and a crushingly lonely life.
We have an epidemic of loneliness
At any given moment 4 in 10 people report that they often or frequently feel lonely. Two in ten people are chronically lonely. 25% of Americans don’t have someone they feel comfortable sharing a personal problem with. Low or no social connection linked to a host of symptoms: depression, anxiety, violence, inflammation. Lonely people are more likely die earlier than the non-lonely. The US surgeon general says the physical effects of loneliness are the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
For some a little social media helps people stay connected for people they care about, it helps people feel happier. But people who spend a lot of time on social media tend to be a lot less happy. You see fake stuff. Not just news, but false images of people’s lives. They only put out there what they want people to see–the good stuff, images of a perfect life.
Faith reminds us to connect
Ours is a faith that is so much built around the need to connect. Not all expressions of religion have that. Many spiritual approaches are very individualistic. They are good at looking inward, helping to focus on the present moment, to connect with your body, nature. That is all part of our faith, too. But there is another element of a social connection that is part of our spiritual nature, too.
Ours isn’t a faith of merely about right beliefs about God or individual spiritual practices. It reminds us to connect with others. It’s where we get people who challenge our thinking, how we learn about the diversity of our world. It’s where we get people who inspire us and are there for us when we need it. It is something we really emphasize at Bay Shore Church.
Some people come from traditions where faith is presented as a relationship between the individual and God and they come here and there is passing of the peace and fellowship after church and groups. They are like, “Uh, what is this? It’s different, scary, but I love it!” At Bay Shore Church in Long Beach, we know we are better together. Faith reminds us that we need to push ourselves and connect.
Did you know that one of the key indicators of happiness for retired folks is not how much money they have, or how well-adjusted their kids are? It’s about the quality and depth of their relationships. Remember that one of the most important investments you need to make in your retirement planning is to invest in relationships now. Take the time. Push yourself. Reach out.
You might think, “I don’t need that, I’m married.” You need more than one person. If you are both going through something hard you need others to support you. So many couples wind up breaking up when there is something tragic, a sick kid, a death, a real problem. They are each looking to the other for their support but the other is hurting as much as they are.
A safe place
Part of our identity as a congregation to be a safe space for people to connect, to be safe people. We follow the commandment of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” And much of the New Testament is a working out of what that commandment means, how to work it out in the real world.
The Apostle Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 13. It is known as the love chapter and it’s read at a lot of weddings. It’s great for helping to remember that love is more than an emotional feeling but a commitment to act in certain ways toward the other. It’s a good text for a marriage, but its original context was not about a couple, but about the way people in a church ought to treat each other. Love is kind. Not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way.
The marks of love are the way we aim to treat everyone whenever they are part of us. Whoever walks in the door. It is patient. This love is something we should be mindful of and be intentional about. It’s got to realize itself in action. How are you loving when you come? Sometimes you come to git, sometimes you come to give.
I like to think about making your time here count. Learn someone’s name. Recognize them. Greet them. There is so much meanness out there. Impatience, meanness, irritability. You can be the one that greets someone that reminds them that here–we are about something different than they get out there. That this is a safe place, a sanctuary from that. You can be the one who makes the difference for someone. People you pray for. Your voice so they are not singing alone. Feeling like they have to go through this world merely left to their own devices.
Someone who has been attending since Christmas Eve asked, “Do you know what it was that got me to come back?” I expected her to say something about some element of the worship service, the prayers, the sermon, the music. But she said the thing that made the difference for her was the way she was greeted and welcomed by people around her, her first time here.
I know, you are shy. Not comfortable. Okay. I get it. Although it may feel vulnerable for you, go ahead and push yourself. You are going to be okay. Even if you reach out and they didn’t really want to connect, you don’t have to take it personally, it might sting a little, but you can put on your big boy or girl pants and get through it. It might make all the difference.
Look to start new groups here. Learn to be present with others, slow down. Enact love to someone else as a spiritual discipline Be kind to someone when you don’t feel like it. Be patient. Next time you make a list of how much more you’ve done than they have, or a list of offenses, mentally tear it up.
Let this be your disposition to all. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
How to Meet Your Need for Connection and Love