In our last blog Andii reflected on reconnecting through practices and had a beautiful image of a three strand cord to represent aspects of this. Do go and have a read if you have not. Today we are thinking about reconnection with people.
I am very much an introvert – I am often content in my own company and I do indeed take energy from it. Yet, I know that I need people. I believe that we all do. There is a yearning within my deepest soul for connection with others. There is a yearning to be known and understood. There is a yearning to know and understand. There is a need to be around others too – I know that I discover more about myself when I am with others and I am also refined by others. I don’t think that I can just hide myself away in a room and undertake some deep self-reflection to know myself. No, I begin to know myself by the way that I am around and with others. Other people draw this out of me. In ‘The Four Loves’ C.S. Lewis beautifully shines a light on this in the context of friendship:
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, “Here comes one who will augment our loves.” For in this love “to divide is not to take away.”
This connection is that of which I have felt most bereaved. The connection of being refined and revealed by a multitude of different people. And also doing that for another, as we mine a person’s life story to discover them. Don’t get me wrong, I often want to hide much of who I am from others, only showing the parts I deem worthy. There is a fear that if someone truly knows me they may reject me – and there seems nothing worse than being known and not wanted. Perhaps lock down has been safer in this sense? And yet, letting others see and know us we must – for we are made for community. I do ultimately think that it is God who knows us most deeply and reveals us most clearly, we see that in Psalm 139 where David says: ‘You have searched me, LORD, and you know me… before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely’. But I also believe that he often helps us understand ourselves through others.
I also believe that we are made in the image of a God who is Himself in community. You have the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a loving relationship from all of eternity. Deeply knowing one another. Deeply loving one another. Deeply sharing together. That is the relationship we are invited into if we accept the invitation. Jesus speaks of this in his prayer in John 17: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” This relationship is open, it is honest and it is vulnerable. I often hope my relationships and connections with others will be like this – but they are often closed, fearful, messy and broken. This is where the yearning to connect with others comes from – the deep rooted connection between the three persons of our triune God. I think that is why our lack of connection with people during lockdown has not felt right. We yearn for a deep rooted connection (and not just the broadband kind) because that is what we were made to be in.
At the same time as this yearning I am also slightly nervous that my social skills are lacking somewhat after a lack of practice in connecting with people. But when these nerves surface, I weigh them up with the deep yearning for connection, my need to be revealed through being with others and the joy of being a part in refining and revealing other people through my interactions with them. So I want to challenge us to embrace the messiness of reconnection with people, holding onto the following three chords (I am shamelessly copying Andii’s three chords idea):
- You were created for connection
- You are revealed by lots of different people
- You have the joy of revealing different aspects of a person
Something I am wanting to do more of, therefore, is hear other people’s stories. Not necessarily their life story, but little aspects of life, little moments that hold significance. So this week, whilst talking with a friend, family member or stranger, why not ask them to share a story about themselves with you. It is here that you begin to mine their beautiful depths. And I always pray that our hearts would grow in compassion for each person we interact with – that our questions would not be out of duty, awkwardness or fear, but instead out of a heart that longs to know and love others.