The most recent chapter I read in The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg is called “Make Life-Giving Relationships a Top Priority.” He talks about how God uses others as he is forming us and how spending time with others who love us is an integral part in bringing us to a place where we flourish. In essence, our connection to people who love us is life-giving, and when we are disconnected we are more susceptible to things like depression, anxiety, loneliness, substance abuse, addiction, and even trouble with our appetites and sleep habits.
One of the quotes that Ortberg shares is this:
Robert Putnam made a staggering comment: “As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but you decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.” It is difficult to imagine anyone not interested in cutting their risk of dying in half. That is why the new motto for small groups at the church where I serve is, “Join a group or die.”
The thing about being connected to a community of people is there are people who are paying attention to you and that brings joy and love into your life that encourages you along the way. This helps when you are struggling with the various stuff of life. This helps when you just need a smiling face to remind you that you are loved.
As I read this chapter, I was reminded of the amazing friends that the Lord has brought into my life in the last couple of years. For a long time I felt like I didn’t have that “safety net” of people who I could call at any moment if I needed something. But as I started praying and looking, I have found some amazing connections. Some were there all along and I just needed to foster them a bit more. Some were brand new – people I hadn’t ever met before or hadn’t connected with in a deeper way before. But all of them have been and continue to be special gifts from the Lord to me.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I always feel like I have a safety net. Sometimes I can (and do) distance myself or pull away which changes nothing about my friends and how they care for me, but it changes my perception. And then one or more of them steps in and yanks me back into the circle and reminds me that I need them.
In his book, Ortberg gives this “Connectedness Inventory.” While there was a time that I am quite sure I would have answered many of these questions “no,” my predominant answer now is “yes.” How about you?
If you can’t answer “yes” to most of these questions, it may be time for you to look into ways you can become more connected with people. That may be a small group at your church. It may be contacting a friend that you have always wanted to be closer to and asking them to meet for lunch a couple of times a month so you can build the relationship. It may mean joining some kind of community group. I encourage you to find those connections that bring life to you. You will be better off for it.