And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
As much as I hate to admit it, I have spent way too much time watching TV during this time of quarantine. A favorite in our household has been Survivor. Even though we watched most of the 40 seasons live, enough time has passed that I have forgotten many of the twists and turns of each season. It’s it like catching up with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed revisiting these past seasons.
In case you missed it, the premise of the reality TV show is that individuals compete for the prize of a million dollars and the title of “Sole Survivor.” The show is a mix of survival skills, physical competitions and having good social skills. In order to win, players must build relationships with other players. Being just smart or strong isn’t enough to win the game, you have to be able to get along with people.
Hunger, sleep deprivation, and simply being around ten other people 24 hours a day, leads players to get pretty snarky with each other. Hanging out alone, or just being with the ones you like, becomes an easy way to navigate survivor life. But, the trouble with those tactics is they don’t build the community of support that is needed to win. Staying detached and building cliques, alienates too many fellow tribe members and ensures a player an early exodus. Needless to say, the show has quite a bit of human relationship drama on it.
As I watch reruns of Survivor, God has been revealing some relationship deficits in my own life.
Throughout my life there have been moments when I didn’t directly mean to, but my actions and attitudes, alienated me from others. I have said hurtful things in moments of anger, hunger, or fear. I have snapped at my husband or barked at my children my personal discomfort overriding my amiability. In order to feel emotional safe and secure, I have built alliances with a comfortable circle of friends. But, my safe circle can alienate those who don’t quite fit in with us. My own awkwardness in relationships has at times detached and blinded me to the needs of the people around me. Internal insecurities often paralyze me from reaching out to others. In my neediness, I have unintentionally alienated others.
Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us that alienation and isolation are not what God wants for us. He wants us to be connected. (I Corinthians 12:12). He wants us to be joined together (Colossians 2:2). But human connection doesn’t just happen. It takes intention on our part. It takes choosing to take action. Community cannot be created without interaction. Loneliness cannot dispel itself. Isolation only dissipates as a greater sense of belonging fills its lonely space.
In the movie, Toy Story, when toy falls out of a window, the plastic orange monkeys quickly jump from their barrel linking together extending themselves to make a chain until the toy in need is rescued. Their willingness to leave the safety of their barrel connecting together arm in arm saves a lost toy.
Likewise, in order for us to rescue each other from isolation, we have to become chains of connection. We have to build community by linking together like the toy monkeys. I need to reach ahead to the woman who has gone before me for wisdom or behind me to the woman who needs encouragement (Titus 2:3). By linking arms in shared experiences, we can begin to belong to each other.
Maybe, you are the first person in the chain of connection. You are the one initiating the relationship because you saw the need and are reaching out. Maybe, you are in the middle of the chain bonding two women together. Maybe, you are at the end of the long chain of support dangling out into the unknown. Or, maybe you are the one desperately needing rescuing.
I don’t know where you are in relationship to those around you, but I do know we need each other. We need to start building chains connecting women to each other instead of alienating them from each other. We need to be reaching out drawing others into our circle of connections.
Connection can begin with simply speaking up and introducing ourselves to someone new. Maybe it’s engaging in conversations with someone who is different than we are. It might require vulnerability and asking for help. Connection requires time. Mindfulness is needed to reach out beyond our circle, to seek out the needs of others, and to link together to meet them.
I don’t want to be voted off the island like in Survivor because I failed to build relationships with those around me. I want to be more like the orange plastic monkeys who leave their safe haven in order to lock arms together creating a chain of hope for someone who needs it. I want to become intentionally linked to those around me.
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (ESV)
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Romans 12:17
Sometimes doing the right thing is easy and sometimes it’s not. I wish I could say I always choose to do the right thing, but I don’t. I can wage a pretty good passive-aggressive war when I feel like I have been mistreated.
I have been waging an internal battle with my heart for years. My heart has a problem with perceived personal injustices. It doesn’t handle them well nor forgets them easily
My typical response when I perceive that I have been wronged is a two-pronged approach. First, I avoid the one who hurt me (either physically or emotionally), and second I start garnering allies. By nonchalantly dropping negative comments to those around me I draw others to my side of the conflict. Needless to say, conflict resolution is not my strong suit. I am better at conflict avoidance.
Paul writes a lot in Romans 12 about how we are to handle those who hurt us and none of those responses are to withdraw and sabotage the relationship. Paul instructs us to love, to be kind, to give, and most of all to forgive. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do it. I run away, complain, and seethe with anger. I slam cabinets, give cold shoulders, and breathe deep sighs of disappointment. My desire to handle things correctly only goes so far before my hurt feelings take over.
So, what is a girl to do when she can’t do it right? She owns up to it. She turns it over to the One who created her and knows her conflict avoidance tendencies. She uses the conflict to draw her into a deeper relationship with her Creator. She prays about it, continuously. She prays for the guardian of Psalms 141:3 to protect her mouth. She prays for insight and wisdom. She prays and takes steps to be kind. She prays for courage and shares her feelings even when she is afraid. She asks God to use her for His glory in the situation. She surrenders what she can’t do to the One who can. She allows the conflict to draw her into a continual conversation with her Creator. She invites Jesus into the problem and follows Him towards a solution one step at a time.
God is changing me through the conflicts in my life. He is changing the way I pray. He is changing the way I react. He is changing my heart. I wish I could say it is easy, but it’s not. Surrender is never easy. Heart work is never easy. Change is hard work. But, I draw encouragement from the truth that God will help me every step of the way.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.