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)
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.