By nature, I could easily become a hermit. Sometimes this is my desire. Human relationships are so complicated. Each of us are broken and scared (not to mention scarred) in our own ways. It is hard—sometimes it even feels dangerous—to be fully transparent and vulnerable with other people. The truth is it can be dangerous. Who can we trust?
I’m writing this article in an empty house (except for the dog, cat, and fish). My wife is traveling, and I’m alone. It is much more common for me to be the one traveling, and for my wife to be home alone. For a strong introvert like myself, sometimes it is attractive to be home alone. At times like this, though, I’m reminded of how much I need other people. It appears to me the greatest value that we add to our lives comes through relationships.
Even being home alone on a day off, I have been in contact with people throughout the day and evening. This has been via telephone calls, texts, e-mails, Facebook, and Messenger. I have been talking to people both near and far. Some have been sharing the excitement of the day, while others have been fighting old demons. I’m appreciative to have these relationships, and to have a role to play in their lives.
I think that God was wise to understand that we need to not be left alone. As the creator, God knows how essential it is for us to be in relationships with other people. Companionship seems to me to be a basic requirement for fulfillment. Do we ever find ourselves, however, not being open to new relationships? New relationships require risk and effort.
Sometimes I’m envious of people who have lived in the same community for a long time. They seem to know so many people and have a greater chance of experiencing deep relationships. In the last thirty-six years (since high school graduation), the longest I have lived in the same community has been seven years. My moves include living in five states. A benefit of this lifestyle is being forced to make new friends. This need has been magnified by the fact my immediate family hasn’t lived close to relatives for the last twenty-two years. With each move we keep some of our old friends, and we make new friends. Making new friends has been so important in my life.
When we quit making new friends, we deprive ourselves of the potential of adding diversity and richness (I’m not thinking money) to our lives. We also limit the ability for Christianity to grow. Often, I hear people say that younger generations are not coming to church. The answer I’m given is that if the Appointive Cabinet would appoint a young pastor, then younger people would come. That, however, is not what I have witnessed as a consistent answer. I’m suspicious the answer can be found with who we as church members have as friends. If the majority of our friends are older, this is likely who are being invited to church. If no new friends are being made, it is less likely that the church will grow. As church members, who are we reaching out to in our communities? People who are mostly like us, or to a wide diversity of people? Often, we call church “family”. Who are we willing to let into our lives? Who will we call family? Our capacity for growth in our personal circle of family and friends directly impacts the ability of our churches to grow. This, at least, is Mark’s theory #2317. Maybe we should test it to see if it is true.
Your brother on the journey, Mark