Connecting
Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 8:33AM
John Strain

In my years of blogging, I find that I revisit, what are central themes in my psyche. One such theme is connectedness. I know about it from studying psychology, participating in religion, and experiencing it in reality. I need to feel connected. Connected to myself, to others, and to God. That about covers the bases and it is almost a cliche. So let me explain what I mean - how I experience it.

First of all, these three are interrelated. I cannot be connected to myself if I am not connected with God or others. It is a zero sum proposition. Think of the string of Christmas lights. If one bulb goes out so do the others.

Second, feeling connected is a fleeting thing. This is common in life. Feeling satisfied, quenched, and happy is also a time limited state. This is a necessary thing. How would you be able to enjoy fullness without hunger, or the soothing relief of cold water without thirst? Therefore, without a feeling of disconnection, we would not know what connection feels like. 

Those who have been traumatized, abused, and neglected at a young age are hindered when it comes to feeling connected. They learn to not feel. They learn to fear or not to trust others. They learn that they are worth less than others and that they do not matter. They may see God as a distant unconcerned being if they believe in God at all. Their lack of connection has them float on a surface of superficiality, depression, anger, anxiety, and confusion. They seek happiness in form over content. Love and learning can heal them, but it takes time, an open mind on their part, and a loving other who will patiently lead them.

Connected to Self

So enough of theoretical foundations and academia and onto the personal experience. Fortunately, I was loved as a child. I had my struggles with self-esteem due to my visual handicap. I had my moments of feeling sorry for myself, but I had others who helped me see things eyes could not. Our limits are mostly self-imposed. Struggles are universal. I learned to see myself as the same as others. We all have gifts and we all have disappointments and things we cannot change. This view centers me so I do not feel superior or inferior. My sense of humor picks up on the irony of life. When I laugh it is because I relate to the condition. I do not laugh to mock someone who just did something stupid. I laugh, because I relate to the poor guy. I am him. It has been me before, it will be me in the future.

Therefore, to be connected to myself, I must keep in perspective who I am. I am important to myself, important to my friends and family, but less important to the rest of the world. Even if I were famous, rich, or important by the standards of the world, it would not change. My core value in the universe is the same as everyone else. Only to myself and those who care about me is this different. The movie star, the homeless alcoholic, the illegal immigrant housekeeper at Motel 6, and the humanitarian have the same intrinsic worth. They all deserve respect, dignity, and love.

Connected to others

If you view others as I described above, connecting to them is easier. I do not look down on people nor do I overly revere folks either. I admire a lot of people, writers, sports figures, certain politicians, actors, and so on. Still, I would not lower myself to ask them for an autograph. I would see if Barbara would do it for me. Ha. The point is, we may get star struck, but the degree to which you place someone on a pedestal, is the degree to which you devalue yourself.

Others may not treat me with these rules. They may look down on me because of outward appearance, social status, financial worth, education, race, religion, and all sorts of reasons. If they do, that is fine. I just will not hang around them. They can have their beliefs and values, and I can have mine. I do not hate them or do anything to make their life miserable - I simply ignore them. Life is too short and there are so many others who are more compatible with me.

I do not spend much time being angry and bitter. Those emotions only corrode my insides. I do not want revenge, just distance. I have to get them out of my head. I have to lose the anger and resentment, because it becomes a cancer that kills me. I get angry. I do not stay angry. I do not give into it. I do not linger in it.

I described who I do not connect with, that leaves everyone else. Those who I connect with or have not connected with yet. When I think of friends and family, I think of special times. It is a great thing to feel accepted by another, no judgment, no manipulation or expectation. When you truly connect with another, you can be yourself and be comfortable.

When I think of connecting to others, I recall a sense of pure love. Accepting someone with all of their uniqueness, faults, and strengths. Feeling accepted on the same terms completes the circle. The longer you relate with such people, the stronger the bond becomes.

Another aspect of connectedness with others is history. Others give us a connection to the past. They know our stories, they are in our stories. They testify that we lived, to what we said and did. When we lose a friend or loved one, part of our grief is because of this loss. Our parents knew us as babies. They knew us before we knew ourselves. When they are gone, so is a witness of our past.

The bad comes with the good. To be happy we must know sadness. To feel vindicated we must know injustice. There is no connection without disconnection. Life is our time to work this out and to learn to endure the unwanted looking forward to the good. We do this with the help of others. We will console a grieving friend and our friends will support us when we are visited by loss ourselves. 

Connected to God

How did the universe come to be? Where did people come from? What happens when we die? How are we supposed to live? Philosophers and theologians are still working on these questions and a few others. You have roughly 75 years to figure it out if you are lucky. 

I went to church some as a kid, but when I was a teenager, having witnessed the divorce of my parents a few years earlier and heading into a life without meaning, I began to ponder questions such as, What is this all about? My search took me to a Southern Baptist Church, Baptist College, Seminary, and beyond. Now at age 54, things have regressed to the mean in my life. I think I know some things, while others are still mysteries, but I have a peace about all of it.

I do believe in God. I believe God wants us to live a life characterized by love. Love others as yourself. I am a Christian. It is a shame that Christians are looked down on the way they are these days. I suppose it makes sense. Jesus talked about love, he exposed hypocrisy and lived what he preached. His reward was false accusations, a farce trial, and a criminal's death. The law put Jesus to death, because the law can be manipulated by corrupt men. Jesus was about a higher law and Truth with a capital "T". Most of us know what is right or wrong. There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. God wants us to follow the spirit of the law.

Connecting to God accepts this. You do not cheat your brother or a stranger. You help where you can. Your impact on the world should be positive. It is better to give than to receive. So I accept the high bar set by Christianity and the Bible. I strive toward it. I fall short, but I keep striving. I do not earn salvation - that is given to my by grace from a loving God. My striving is a testament of my love and obedience to God in response to His love for me.

Being connected to God has a lot to do with nature. The changing of the seasons, the lights in the night sky, the songs of birds, the beauty and grandeur of it all is a constant whisper in my ear that there is a God and he is a great God. I like to nurture my sense of wonder by contemplating things like tree, color, light, our senses, life, death, love, animals, - it is endless.

I remember a sermon in which the minister talked about the difference between the US and Soviet astronauts. The US astronauts went into space and said they saw God everywhere. The Soviet astronauts went to space and proclaimed they did not see God anywhere.

If you believe in an all powerful loving God who created you and loves you. It is not a stretch to see others the same way. It follows to treat them well - believers or not. Feelings of gratitude marinate your soul. You feel appreciation, awe, love, and purpose. It all translates to meaning. How you live is a reflection of these attitudes and beliefs. This way of relating resonates in others and you connect. Feeling the connection to God and others are the key ingredients you need to fully connect with yourself.

The awareness of this waxes and wanes. We give into selfishness, anger, greed, and other vices, but only for a time. The still small voice is always there calling us back, encouraging us to press forward. Christians are the body of Christ. His body exists in the millions of Christians alive today. His work, if it is to be done, is done through his people.

Connectedness therefore, is a symmetry of beliefs and actions pertaining to self, others, and God. I shared some of what it means to me. You, however, are unique and do it a bit different. I would challenge you to think about how you do this in your own life.

In the words of the great thinker Forest Gump, "That's about all I know about that."

Until the next time

John Strain

Article originally appeared on John's Online Journal (http://www.johnstrain.net/).
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