Notional Connection

I had a thought early, while it was still dark…

chain-link-redIt’s easy to feel disconnected. That feeling should only come once you realize that it means you were at one time connected…. And that’s the rub. The idea that we are connected to another person is strained because we never considered how that connection was defined.

To be connected means that you “bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.” We all seek real connections, but notice that word notional. Sometimes. Maybe too often. What you think is a “real” connection, is most probably and only a “notional” link: “…existing only in theory or as a suggestion or idea…”

Often, our connections are not as real as we thought, or hoped. There may be a political connection that only lasts during election cycles. They may be tenuous due to some temporary status to either party. Regardless, we often think our connection is as real as one chain link intertwined with the next chain link. Tested. Shined. Strong.

When my bride and I said “I Do”, we created a connection that is stronger today than it was on that day of commitment. When my parents birthed me into the world, there was a connection that cannot be separated by time or distance.

When you make connections in a new part of the world, with people you have barely been introduced to, then that’s easily a single reason why connections break easily. There is no opportunity to bind the temporary connection into a permanent connection. Time. Distance. Politics. Personalities. Challenges… They all create opportunities for a connection to blossom and grow, or wither and die.

In fact, the origin of the word “connect” comes from Latin that means “bind together”. “Con-” equals together, and “nectere” equals bind. Together. Bind. Catch it? It’s a two way street. It’s not a single direction. It starts away from each other, then meets in the middle or some approximation, and that connection equally occurs by the effort by both parties.

I studied the US transcontinental railroad project recently, where the starting points of the railroad that would finally connect the East to the West were 1,776 miles apart. They did not know where they would meet, and certainly could not have planned for each to finish at a preplanned stopping point. No. Each direction carried a different set of issues. From staffing to supply, weather to terrain, and all the hostile elements that kept them on their toes, even the ability of surveyors keeping them pointed in the best direction….

But somewhere, at some point in the future, and at an uncertain distance – they would become connected. 

Each side has barriers to overcome before a serious connection can be established. Just like a battery connector and battery post must be thoroughly cleaned so that a strong connection can be made, it takes  real work to make both sides realize the effort needed to connect in a solid way.

Through the years I’ve been told that I’m too friendly and accepting, and while that may be true, get on my bad side and I can sever the connection like a hot knife through butter. No longer connected together, it’s almost like we are boxers in a ring looking to take the shot that will bring the other down. That’s a disconnection that is as close to war as I would ever want to get… I win. You lose.

Or, is it that we both lose. And we never realize it.

The harder it takes to make a serious connection, the harder it is to plunder either side so that the connection severs. When you are solidly connected, then like the proverbs of old you are a friend that stick closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

So, why do we not work hard on making and keeping solid connections?

That’s a great question. Perhaps it is the nature of men to size others up and determine if we can be in a position of “having one anothers back.” Or, do we have strengths that bolster the weakness that another has. Trust. Personality. Background. Skills. All come into play when determining if we can make a connection, or even if it’s worth the effort.

I’ve learned something about myself through the years. I hate being in crowds. When I walk into a room, I may have many connections and it’s easy to escape to those familiar faces and focus inwardly. Even when talking to others, there is also that feeling of backing into a solid walled corner where, like a gunfighter of old, you want to protect your back and be ready to face any challenger.

But then, walk into a room, like Men’s Conference last night, where there should be safety and peace, I find you must let your guard down. Last night with a lot of familiar faces, it’s easy to shake hands with anyone. Greet as many as possible, or necessary. Introduce your friends that are strangers to others. And gingerly test the waters to see if you can make a new connection that might just last longer than this event. Still. You’ve been burned before. It’s difficult getting over the rawness. You remember getting snubbed by one, glad handed by another, and then, someone slips into your blind spots and grabs you. You don’t know whether to hit first, duck for cover, or freeze.

You see those you had once been connected to, and you feel not one iota of a present connection. Whatever had been there before is severed. Trust is lost, and you are in your game mode – don’t trust the stranger because you can not even trust who was at one time a friend. You wonder if you should even be at the event. Why? There is a trust factor that will never exist again. There are wounds left on the table that have not yet healed over. There are unspoken words that should have been shared, but at this stage of the game they will never be communicated. There is even that feeling of avoidance. You to them, and them to you.

Then the speaker talks about how God healed him from an experience that left horrible scars, the root of which goes back to when his age was in single digits. The perpetrator is a distant relative. He tells of realizing, finally, that he must forgive. That’s the only way he will grow. When you carry your pain, you nurse your pain, and that pain keeps the event alive. It cannot scar you because you keep picking at the wound.

But when you realize that scars show your victory over a situation, and often reflect what you faced, and what you overcame. You realize you must let the pain go. True, God can heal you of the mental pain you feel, but without feeling pain you will never know again if you are being injured. Pain shows you are alive! Scars are a gentle reminder of your past battles, or it may be an “in your face” badge of honor.

Here’s the truth of scripture. There is nothing in the bible that tells me I must forgive myself. No parable. No father to son conversation. No words of wisdom. No words in red. We buy into the notion we will never heal if we do not forgive ourselves…except we have no substantiated scripture to tell us that’s a true statement!

I watch people constantly put their pain into the conversation and want eveyone to feel sorry for their experience instead of setting the pain down and start reaching out to support others around them. It’s all about “them”…

When the Prodigal came home to his father, all he could ask was for his father’s forgiveness. Not one time does the story tell us he had to forgive himself. It was all in the power of attitude. Recognizing his own sin will be the only way he can find forgiveness for the pain he has caused. In his pain he realizes there is an open path back to a connection that is his only place of safety and peace. He had wronged his father, sullied his family name, and his God. His father could forgive him. Heaven could forgive him.

Why?

This is an important step to reconnecting – Confession of the sin brought the words into the open to help make forgiveness occur. Re-connection only occurs when you confess your sin to yourself.

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:17-19 NKJV)

While a disconnection may be a two-way street, the guilty one must plan on making amends…and without a single word being spoken, the receiving party can open the pathway again.

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. (Luke 15:20 NKJV)

Read the remainder of the story… He still spoke the words to his father that he spoke to himself. Healing can only truly happen when one side of the connection speaks the reason for separation. This tells me there must be someone who has felt the hurt that needs to forgive. At the same time, there must be the connection breaker that must be willing to repent. His father responded with a huge sigh of relief, and a joy of the reconnection. Best robe. Family ring. Sandals. Fatted calf. My son was dead, but now alive; lost, and now found…

Facebook has done a lot of good things in reconnecting me to people from my past. There are some particular names that I could share, and they know who they are, that without a social media connection we might have never known the other was still alive.

Take some responsibility for those lost connections. Now. Take a moment and survey the room. Is there someone you need to reconnect to? It’s in your hands to make it happen… What are you going to do about it? Healing is in your hands to start the path of reconnecting…

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