The world appears to be shrinking. It seems with every passing moment another new piece of technology is designed in order to connect us to the outside world. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest, Tumblr and countless other apps, websites and technologies have changed our lives. They have drastically changed the way we interact with one another day to day. These technological advances offer us the ability to stay “connected,” to whomever or whatever we would like. Access to communities of people, from all around the world are at our finger tips, literally, at all times. We can always remain connected. We never have to be alone. Amazing!!!
In fact, according to recent British surveys nearly 60% of people, ages 18 to 34, reported feeling lonely regularly… wait… “W. T. oops ???” Hmmm… that doesn’t seem right…
Alas, it would appear that this is indeed the tragic irony. It would seem that as we get more “connected,” we’re simultaneously feeling more disconnected than ever. How is this possible? As the world shrinks, as we spend more time “connected”, it appears we grow further and further apart. In fact, the correlation between the amount of time spent online and lack of emotional happiness would suggest these services offer us promises that they can’t keep. They offer us “connection” but the result tends to be isolation.
But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Yeah, maybe just maybe, it’s just a problem for our generation? After all, those 18 to 34 are the generation most experiencing drastic life changes. Yeah that’s it! God knows finding a career gets harder and harder, universities get more and more expensive, more and more people are going to university, which means the competition is growing ever more fierce. Which, in turn, means that post-post-secondary education jobs become harder and harder to find and… and… WHOA!!! I’m exhausted just thinking about it, and a little dizzy and I didn’t even get to finding the right career, and finding a spouse, or potentially raising kids… Yikes! Yes that’s it, it has nothing to do with social media or the internet. Life between the ages of 18 and 34 clearly just sucks! But wait…
According to a recent AARP study, 33% of adults 40 and over have reported feeling chronically lonely, which is to say they’ve been lonely for quite some time. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness affects the lives of some 700,000 men and 1.1 million women over 50 in England alone. All of these numbers are more than twice what they were a decade before. Yowzers!!!
Not to mention, recent studies would suggest that our loneliness is actually killing us… “say what?” “KILLING US!!!” Social isolation, according to new studies, is said to be more harmful to your health than obesity. Social isolation impairs our immune function and boosts inflammation, which of course can lead to arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, the elderly without adequate social situations are twice as likely to die, these numbers are comparable to chronic smokers. Social isolation is a growing epedemic, depression is on the rise, it’s affecting us all, and worst of all, It’s KILLING US!
So then that raises the question, what are we to do? How can we reverse this trend?
I could offer you a seven step program on how to “Disconnect to Reconnect,” but frankly that’s unrealistic in today’s day and age, and I can’t help but feel, it misses the point entirely. You see, the problem is not that we are connected, that’s great! The problem is how we are choosing to connect. The problem is the level on which we connect.
When pondering this topic I couldn’t help but remember this quote by the brilliant British thinker and author C.S. Lewis;
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Let these words marinate in your mind for a minute, they just may change your life!
I’m currently in my mid-twenties and I truly believe that my generation, and the ones to follow, need to understand exactly what Lewis is getting at. With the ability to connect to one another becoming more readily available, we’ve seen a huge change in how relationships have formed.
I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, how we all are wearing disguises. Due to our fallen, sinful nature we are all obsessed with self-salvation projects. Our instinctual need to save ourselves, to forge our own identities, reveals our deep desire to be our own God. This downward usurping of God’s authority has affected us all. As evidenced throughout the entirety of Scripture, our desire to be our own God leads to all kinds of disaster. The fact is, that despite our desire for autonomy, we are absolutely TTTerrible at playing God. Our attempts – as evidenced in the Garden of Eden – have left us feeling empty and ashamed and have led us to try and cover up our failures (sin) and our all to apparent fallibility. These disguises are designed, by us, out of necessity, for our protection and our success, but ultimately prevent us from having genuine true relationships. Unfortunately, this is something we (myself included) are all guilty of. A quote by Tim Kreider, both funny and deeply profound, comes to mind when reflecting on this;
“Each of us has a Soul Toupee [disguise]. The Soul Toupee is that thing about ourselves we are most deeply embarrassed by and like to think we have cunningly concealed from the world, but which is, in fact, pitifully obvious to everybody who knows us.
Contemplating one’s own Soul Toupee is not an exercise for the fainthearted. Most of the time other people don’t even get why our Soul Toupee is any big deal or a cause of such evident deep shame to us but they can tell that it is because of our inept, transparent efforts to cover it up, which only call more attention to it and to our self-consciousness about it, and so they gently pretend not to notice it.
Meanwhile we’re standing there with our little rigid spongelike square of hair pasted on our heads thinking: Heh—got ’em all fooled! What’s so ironic and sad about this is that the very parts of ourselves that we’re most ashamed of and eager to conceal are not only obvious to everyone but are also, quite often, the parts of us they love best.”
This is where social media can play a nasty roll, it allows us to be the version of ourselves that we want to be rather than the version of ourselves that we truly are. If people love and idealized version of you – a version we ourselves to often believe – then who/what they love is not really you. Our desire to “create our own brand,” has warped our perception of ourselves and this dilution has leaked into all areas of our lives affecting both friendships and romantic relationships alike.
Indeed, we live in the cross roads between the “hook-up age” and the “relationship in a box age.”
Those who embrace the “age of the hook-up,” are in search of connection without sacrifice, love without vulnerability. Often using an expression of love (sex) as a means to do it. This culture embraces a “f@$k and chuck” attitude, strictly physical connection with little to no emotional connection. Though some find enjoyment in this phase for a season, reality (that we are meant for more) inevitably begins to set in, and often times this search only perpetuates ones loneliness.
Those who seek on-line relationships, or “relationships in a box,” are almost the exact opposite. They express their feelings, thoughts, emotions and are often connected through deep conversation rather than physical interaction. Strictly emotional connection with little to no physical connection.
Both forms of interaction can have there upside but they both ultimately remain unfulfilling. The reason being is that they are both attempts, whether consciously or unconsciously, to do away with the true, pure vulnerability that is a necessity of true love. In doing so we miss true love, replacing it for a shadow of the true thing. Love without sacrifice, love without vulnerability, love with out pain or burden doesn’t exist; it’s a mirage. You can dream it, you can see it, you might even feel you can touch it, but when you awake to reality, you’re left alone, often times lonelier than before. This is because you awake to the harsh reality you’ve spent time, selfishly, pursuing what does not exist and it leaves you feeling more empty than ever.
As our world shrinks, and “connection” becomes more readily availiable, we are continually shrinking further and further into ourselves. Selfishly we have replaced genuine face to face interaction with distant, edited, scripted, affected relationship. It’s easier, far less messy, and we remain in control. The irony is that connecting in these ways has led us deeper into our lonliness, deeper into our brokeness.
THIS IS WHY WE NEED THE GOSPEL, THIS IS WHY WE NEED THE CROSS!!!
In Christ, we find the purest, most profound, and ultimately perfect form of love. The thrice holy, transcendent Creator of the heavens and the earth, El- Shaddai, condescended into creation to show us what true love looks like.
Take notes people because this is a lesson we must not forget, true love isn’t fit for a Disney script, by no means!
In the purest expression of love the world has ever seen… we see God as Man broken! We see THE King trade his crown for a cross! We see an eternal, immutable, relational God willfully lay down his life so the rebels who denied his Lordship – in pursuit of there own – could return to perfect union with Him!!! That’s truly AMAZE-BALLS!!!
This act of ultimate love, reiterates what C. S. Lewis was getting at… that true love is an expression of willing sacrifice. This sacrifice has changed the world and led John, Jesus’ most beloved disciple, to pen these words;
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:7-21).
Whether you’re religious or irreligious love is an expression of God. The further we get from love, from vulnerability and sacrifice, the further we get from God. This separation is what’s killing us! It’s driving us apart! This is why no matter how connected we are… we still feel so alone.
However, there is hope! A hope that is found in ceasing our striving, removing our disguises, throwing away our Soul Toupee, turning for our sinful desire to play god and turn to the One and true, living God, the God who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
For all those who believe, He came to graft us into His family tree, to unite us with the other members of His body, and ultimately to demonstrate for us what is true love.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-11)
“To love is to be vulnerable” -C.S. Lewis