The other Saturday we hosted a guys’ breakfast at Chapel House and during what I shared I asked them a question: ‘Are you more concerned about being correct than to connect? I first heard Richard Rohr voice this challenge a little while ago when he was talking about the intrinsic value of relationships and that we are not meant to do life on our own. Sometimes, though, out of our desire to be right and have all the answers, we can be so right that we’re wrong ie we sacrifice relationship and connectedness on the altar of correctness!! I’m sure you get my drift. Hope so, anyway!
I had the privilege of praying for a very special couple a few months back and I used a fidget spinner as my intro. I pointed out that God, the Holy Trinity, is going to be involved in their marriage with them and that it is going to be like a divine dance between the three of them (perichoresis for those who like that sort of thing!) and I spun the spinner to illustrate the dynamic of this. Again, this is an example of ‘connection’ and this time illustrates the relationship at the heart of creation – the Divine connecting with all that he has created! It’s a beautiful thing.
In the light of all the above, it is very interesting that a Minister for Loneliness, a project first started by the late MP Jo Cox, has been announced by Downing Street. Tracey Crouch said she was proud to take on the “generational challenge” to tackle an issue affecting about nine million UK people, young and old. The 42-year-old said she would work across political parties in the role.
(NB A 2017 report said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day). BBC Radio 4 has also announced the results of ‘The Loneliness Experiment’, a nationwide survey conducted by BBC Radio 4’s ‘All In The Mind’. It is the largest survey into the issue of loneliness to date. The survey results indicate that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. 40% of respondents aged 16-24 reported feeling lonely often or very often, while only 29% of people aged 65-74 and 27% of people aged over 75 said the same. My own Surgery run occasional tea parties for ‘lonely people’ who make appointments to see their doctor because they’ve got nobody else to talk to. GPs have become like modern day priests.
At the same guys’ breakfast I mentioned earlier, I also said that we sometimes (and include myself here) need a fresh perspective on who the folk are around us (the lonely?) that we should be connecting with and I talked about the story of Zachaeus, climbing the sycamore tree, because he was ’short in stature’, so that he could be at a vantage point to see Jesus passing by. He was a rich man and a tax collector, so not one of the cool cats to hang out with in his community, but Jesus spotted him, told him to come down, and invited himself for tea. On the back of this particular ‘connection’, a life was dramatically turned around. Although the wee guy was already being generous and giving half his money to the poor, as a direct result of Jesus spotting in him something that he wanted to affirm and encourage, Zachaeus then seems to get a heart for justice and says that he is going to pay back 4 times what he has overtaxed people. Remarkable. It is possible to be a giant physically, but small in stature, spiritually and stingy in our outlook and outreach.
The challenge to my own heart first and foremost during this festive season is where and with whom is God asking me to have a fresh perspective on my connections, and this is a bizarre prospect, but maybe its time for a bit of ‘Strictly…’ after all!