Connection. This is the theme I hear all around me. How am I connected, or not, in meaningful ways to those around me? How do I get connected? What does it mean to connect with someone: Are we best friends forever or do we just nod to one another from across the way?
It will come as no surprise to you that along with this question rolling around there is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself, rolling around in my head, too. What does it mean to love in such a way? How do I love my neighbor on those days I don’t love myself? Is this what it means to be connected? To love with all that I am?
This past weekend, 8 of us traveled to Chicago for the Art and Spirituality retreat. It is not unusual to encounter people from all walks of life as you move from one destination to another. It is one of the things I love about Chicago. I found myself wondering more about people this trip, especially since the spiritual practice we were learning encouraged us to set aside our assumptions and expectations. From that posture I began to be curious about these other humans beings around me and as is normal to our humanity, I began to seek our similarities, the ways in which we are connected. Perhaps that is what this loving business Jesus talks about all the time is about. Approaching the world with an open heart and mind that allows us to see ourselves in others so that we can connect with each other in some way. My humanity seeing your humanity, my heart and mind and soul and strength acknowledging yours even when it doesn’t look exactly like mine.
The holiday season is upon us. We will encounter all sorts of people as we travel and shop and celebrate. What if we approached the next 6 weeks as a holy experiment? What if we came at this question of connection from the angle of loving God and neighbor sans assumptions and expectations. Here is what I imagine such a thing would look like:
- Breathe more. Build into my day more moments where I breathe deeply. Also be aware of anxiety and fear in my reactions to people and events and breathe deeply then, too. Create space for my mind and heart to hear each other.
- Be curious about the people, places and events I encounter. Observe my own reactions and assumptions and expectations and be curious about those, too.
- Check my assumptions and expectations at the door. Do this especially during family and group events. Instead, see things with new and open eyes.
- Find similarities and see myself in others.
- Love and pray and breathe through it all.
- Repeat (and talk or write about the results of this experiment)
Try this. Let’s together see what this changes in each of us. I suspect we will find connection and love for God, neighbor and ourselves in this season that is often full to the brim with too much to do. As always, I look forward to hearing your stories of how you connect.