If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? What would make it easier to adapt to the life you know today? What thing ended up not being as important as you thought? What has become more important to you since that time?
I would tell my younger self to spend more time focusing on relationships to people I cared about – friends and family, and maybe a little less time on work and volunteer projects. When thinking back now, it was about ten years ago that my friend, Robert, started to embody this alternative focus on relationships in my life. He flat out asked me if I would commit to being his friend in particular terms: talking regularly, asking each other about challenges in life, and trying to have fun together too.
I had many friends in my life, but as I got to know Robert better, I realized that most of my friendships were pretty shallow or one sided. I liked helping others, so many of my friendships were grounded in them needing me but not necessarily me needing them. Over time, I became better at sharing my vulnerabilities and asking for help. Over time, I got better at having mutual relationships with other friends, my siblings and my parents.
The funny thing is that I can still say that I need that same advice: affirmation that it is ok – and even good – to spend more time on mutual relationships. And that need is not out of place. A 2010 survey by AARP found that loneliness among adults over 45 has doubled to 40% of U.S. Americans, up from 20% in 1980. As the value of independence increases, our society has become more disconnected from important forms of social interaction and support. Despite increases in digital communication and access to mobility, we struggle with personal relationships more than previous generations. And while loneliness increases, new studies have found that spending time building and nurturing social relationships may be just as important to our health as eating right and exercise.
On April 1st, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus defeated the power of death to demonstrate to all humanity that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus went back to his community after the resurrection to encourage them to share the good news with the whole world. As the church, we are called to embody that message and to work on removing the roadblocks that separate us from loving relationships.
While we take time to learn from our past, we have the freedom to respond and live into our values today. During our Discernment Gatherings after worship on April 15th and May 20th, we are asking ourselves, “How is God calling us to change?” This question is not a diagnosis that there is something wrong with us now, but a recognition that if we live intentionally in each moment we have the opportunity to be a more healing, enriching and relevant community for ourselves and others. I hope you will bring your voice into this important discussion. Jesus is risen anew each day as we embody the love of God in Jesus Christ. He is Risen Indeed!
– Rev. Ben Heimach Snipes