Where's the Bathroom?
Folks are lonely. I’m lonely. Loneliness is endemic of our society.
Few sectors are exempt: School, work, home, even church.
Surveying the landscape of the local church, I notice folks trying to make authentic connections that are deep and lasting. But it’s hard and folks are struggling…
Picture a traveler in a foreign airport, delayed flight, pacing through the busy terminal. Cell phone battery is dying and the charging station is maxed out. The waiting presses toward impatience.
Picture a rock climber, salted sweat and trembling sinews, pasted to a hot shear vertical surface. Toes curled into narrow gaps and hands reaching for finger width spaces to grasp. The panting presses toward defeat.
Skip it. Give up. Turn back.
Often enough church folks – myself included – have assumed “connection” means serving or participating in any number of ministry options.
If we can just get them involved or giving, then they’ll plug in or find their fit; they’ll feel like they belong.
And when serving or participating, you are in; you are part of a core that represents something bigger, something like the local church body itself.
I wonder now, though, if this is right? I wonder if connection is tied less to doing and more to being? What I’m thinking is connection isn’t found in serving. Not at first, anyway. Connection is found in relationship; real and actual friendships that are meaningful and two-way.
There is purpose in relationship, an active giving and receiving between two or more parts.
There is belonging in relationship, an experience of knowing and being known.
There is intimacy in relationship, a felt closeness to others even when not nearby.
In relationship there is an ethos of core.
Relationships begin on common ground. Coffee shops, work, school, street corners, church, ball games, dance studios, the theater, the bar, the internet, YMCA, Weight Watchers, Young Life, Kiwanis, etc.
Relationships proceed with common interest. Coffee, production, math, riding buses, Jesus, baseball, ballet, comedy, beer, Facebook, swimming, weight loss, youth ministry, business, etc.
Here is connection. Notice serving could easily fit as a common ground or common interest, but it isn’t the doing service that builds the relationship. It is being a servant together that births relationship.
Even still, though common ground and common interest is present, in any relationship there is one who is “closer in” and one who is “further out.”
Someone arrived first.
Someone has more experience.
Someone knows more.
Someone is the home team.
No matter the common ground or common interest, someone is always closer than the other to whatever is held in common. In any relationship, someone always has a proximity advantage. And those with proximity advantage have a great responsibility in the relationship.
Imagine a home setting; a point of common ground. The home owner is hosting guests for dinner; a point of common interest. When the guests arrive, whose responsibility is it to locate the bathroom?
But it’s an obvious one, right? Or maybe it isn’t.
Think about it though. The bathroom is a space in a home that is critical to locate. As a guest in a home, there are any number of issues that may arise requiring a private space to retreat to. I’ll let you make that list.
Back to the question… Is it the guest’s responsibility to ask the host? Perhaps the guest is expected to go searching behind closed doors on their own? Or is it the host’s responsibility to tell the guests ahead of time? Now that you think about it, the answer kind of smacks with the obvious.
By owning the responsibility to locate the bathroom for the guest, the host is building into a relationship with the guest. Imagine a care package…
I care for you enough to share all of my home with you.
I care for you enough to take the guesswork out of visiting.
I care for you enough to resolve the awkward situation beforehand.
As the one in the relationship who is “closer in,” by offering the bathroom location to a guest or pointing out the time clock for the new guy or helping a freshman find her homeroom or walking across the crowded church foyer to greet a visitor and invite them to sit near you; by doing any of these acts (and countless others in any number of situations) you generate connection for those “further out.”
It’s a smile.
It’s an outstretched hand.
It’s a first name intro.
It’s a genuine interest.
All of a sudden you’ve opened an outlet at the charging station for another to plug in. All of a sudden you’ve revealed a crag in the rock for another to hold on. All of a sudden you’ve engendered opportunity for connection; real and actual friendships that are meaningful and two-way. And all of a sudden loneliness begins to fade.