25 August, 2015

Why Are We All So Lonely?

Why are we all so lonely?

Confronted by the above question, there’s this morbid relief that its “we all” and not just me - the old “misery loves company” kind of relief. But before I get the chance to fully meditate on my loneliness, there’s a distraction and I’m on to the next thing. That may just be the problem – all these distractions in our lives.

Though our world has never been more connected, we have never felt more isolated from each other. Combined with our keen ability to multi-task and a multitude of distractions, we walk through our lives with this haunting sense that we may have forgotten to do something very important.

Maybe our problem is that we're trying to meet phantom, 21st century expectations? Our smart phones constantly tempt us to be more efficient calling us to be multitasking Ninjas; our circadian rhythm is overruled so we can be available 24/7 to respond to whomever about whatever – like a toddler demanding attention by acting out and never napping.

We expect ourselves to work hard, and then we expect ourselves to play hard – and sometimes we’re not sure which is which. What's the solution?

I think my friend Jessica Bowen may be on to something. I was intrigued by her recent decision to “unplug” from social media as a possible solution to create more margin and meaning to her life. Here's what she had to say.

“I have deactivated my Facebook account and won't reactivate it until I have made some major shifts. Such as: make an Important events box with monthly tabbed dividers (like my grandma used to do) with cards for birthdays & anniversaries & "Just Because" cards ready to go with stamps; an address book for contacts instead of relying solely on my phone; Process my digital photos & create a scrapbook and a family photo album in chronological order; Meet my neighbors in our building and have them over for dinner or coffee to get to know them; Step out of my comfort zone and make new friends locally. I want to pick up the phone and call someone when I am thinking of them and actually make contact - not just stalk their (social media) to get "caught up" on their lives. I want to have friends over to have actual conversations instead of writing on their "wall". It's too easy to have this false sense of "community" and false sense that you "know someone" when in reality you don't really know THEM at all - only the facade or surface image they choose to share publicly. We as a society have lost the art of friendship, communication and being present. So, I am on a quest for real, genuine friendships… making actual contact with someone and trusting our friendship enough to say, "Life is tough right now and I need a friend to be present in my life. Can you be that friend?" That takes vulnerability and authenticity... and it's a lot scarier than having the false sense of community by putting it out on FB like you’ve confided in a friend when in reality you've not truly connected with anyone.”

Wow. You know Jessica’s thoughts drip with truth. Maybe you need a break too? What would it look like for you? Can you step away from the chaos of unrealistic expectations in your distracted, multi-tasked life? Do you realize that social media creates only the perception of friendship? It’s really just a fantasy.

The world can be a very ugly place. We’re surrounded by stories of injustice, violence, and abuse that make us want to retreat into our own “worlds”. But God put inside each one of us, the desire to connect… to relate… to be emotionally engaged and to draw meaning from it all inside a community of authentic friendships.

I’ve become convinced that Jesus died to create the church to be that community of authentic, Christ-seeking people. I’m also convinced that your spiritual growth is stunted if you're attempting to grow your relationship with Jesus without that community.

So maybe, this fall, it’s time to turn off the TV. Time to unplug from the internet and get face to face with real people who desire authentic friendship. Maybe it’s time for you to be part of a growing, authentic group of Christians to share life together. Or maybe, its time for you to lead out and start one?

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