This quote by Mother Teresa haunts me so. While we may have different opinions and life experiences from those around us, we are — as she so wisely observed — all still connected. Why? In my view, it’s because every person has been fashioned in the image of God (see the early chapters of Genesis for reference), even if those who bears His image refuse to acknowledge or behave in ways that honor His existence.
Despite the strides our society has made in technology, it seems that we are all more [dis]connected from one another (in terms of intimacy and shared experiences). Everything things to be about a “like” here, a “follower” there — as if the sum of our worth can somehow be defined in terms of clicks and page views.
In our world today, it sure seems like most everyone is shouting, “Look at me,” because clearly, we only really matter if others think highly of us. This a dangerous business. If so, then we must work feverishly each day to maintain this steady stream of favor. Otherwise, what happens when we stop performing and the likes and follows start to subside?
But don’t you think that we have perhaps gotten it backwards? Doesn’t the Bible encourage us to look around and try to connect with the humanity that we see all around us? We may not always be successful in this endeavor, but we can surely try. How? Well, Jesus left us a pretty solid example to follow: we do so one person at a time, one burden at a time, one day at a time. Even though He had nowhere to lay His head at night and was terribly betrayed by those closest to Him, the Lord still found time to touch the lives of others through a blend ordinary and truly extraordinary ways.
How was it ordinary? Well, I love that Jesus was never flashy. Dealing with the crazy man at the graveyard? He just told the evil spirits to flee and away they went. Oh, and you say that Lazarus died? No problem! Call the brother by name and watch him be recalled to life. Betrayed by a close friend (Peter)? Meet him on the beach with breakfast in tow and shower him with grace and truth — rather than harsh rebuke — and then watch a man get delivered. Need to pay your federal taxes to Ceasar? Who needs a bank? Just head to the Sea of Galilee, find a random fish in the water, open its mouth, and voila — there is your tax money. Do we know how He did these things? No. Did He simply care for others in simple — yet extraordinary — ways? He sure did, and we can do the same.
Also, one of the most effective ways Jesus showed that He cared for others by listening to them. Someone would come to Him with a concern, and He would give that person His full attention and then ask him/her a follow-up question that struck at the very heart of the matter. Then He would wait quite patiently for the response.
Other times, He knew that the best way to connect with those around Him was by telling stories (parables) about everyday experiences filled with life lessons that most people would be able to understand. During these times, He commanded their full attention. People did not have their iPhones out, scrolling through their daily Twitter feed. No, He took time to be really present with them and honored them with His presence and attention; in response, they did the same — even if only for a little while,
Could it be that we are so [dis]connected (I call it “scrolling through life”) that we are no longer able to look around, observe God’s creative handiwork in another person, and attempt to connect to with someone around us in a small yet meaningful way? No, here on the backside of 2019, it sure seems that we would rather just look the other direction. Could it even be that the parable of the Good Samaritan is more relevant today than it was when Jesus walked the earth? And are we so busy scrolling through life that we completely bypass those who are hurting or are otherwise in need? It sure seems that way.
Years ago, I was sharing a taxi with someone (she looked to be twenty-something), and we were the only two people sharing the cab. Since we had a lengthy drive ahead of us, I thought I would smile and say hello. Her response? Nothing. The woman did not even respond or acknowledge my presence in any way. The message I received that day was I did not matter. Not even enough to say hello. And whatever happened to manners and social graces?
It is a dangerous business when we find our primary sense of belonging and identity in the public domain. I’m not saying that social media is evil (I equate it how the Bible talks about money — it’s there to be used, but if you start finding your worth in it, then it’s all downhill from there), but we need to use it with discernment.
Perhaps it is finally time for us to put our devices down and look around? Maybe enjoy a beautiful walk outside, or ask the cashier at the grocery story how his day is going, and really stop to listen to the answer? I don’t think it’s difficult to begin the re+connection process — it simply requires intention and commitment.
Mother Teresa poses a good question, no? Could it be that we have no peace because we have forgotten that we belong to each other? Something for us to think about as we navigate the rest of this week and beyond — may our focus be loving God and loving one another (as the Bible commands), rather on than loving ourselves and merely “liking” one another.