The only real way to grow is through connection. Sometimes we think we need to pressure, prod, or push growth by telling people what to do or making a plan to which they must adhere. The only real growth in the natural world around us, though, is through cells connecting with one another. There is no real laid out plan for how plants should grow (except maybe their DNA – the plans are encoded within), and there is not someone there demanding they straighten themselves up and reach out further toward the sun. The cells just come together and through some magical interaction, plants grow.
Living in a perpetual state of repentance is the way to change. We are always in brokenness and there is nothing that keeps our hearts tender like saying we’re sorry, turning around and repenting for the things we have done. It is true you make mistakes every day. Why would you not want to live in repentance? The alternative is to not pay attention to the things you are doing wrong or to rationalize and try to convince yourself and others that the things you have done are not that bad. When you put it that way, it seems like there is only one option.
I am captivated by this story about the white helmets (watch the first 12 minutes of the video above). This takes place in a different world than the one in which most of us live. It is a different culture and a different political climate: a dictatorship in which the dictator seeks to bomb his own subjects into submission. People are not even safe in their own homes. This is not the first regime of this kind in the Middle East, but it is a far cry from the relative comfort we enjoy in the west. Yet compassionate humanity is juxtaposed with the darkest violence and cruelty.
What strikes me about this group of rescuers is their willingness to risk their own lives for the chance to save others. This is not the only story of humans giving up their lives for one another. I write about all who have chosen to risk life and limb for others. Anyone who has put themselves in the position to sacrifice for others has reached a level of spirituality to which we can all aspire: they have given their most precious life for something they believe in. As they sacrifice their lives, they say to us, “There is something that exists beyond life that is more important than life itself.” This is what gives our lives meaning. We might be tempted to think they are foolish to risk their lives depending on their cause, but we can also not help being inspired: “Could I be that brave?” The unmistakeable meaning that is demonstrated in such selfless sacrifice is that love trumps all. Our connection with one another is worth dying for.
Our connections with one another are all that matter. When everything is stripped away, what will be left is your essence and my essence (who we are) and the connection our essences can have – on the soul level. There are so many things in this life which present barriers to our souls connecting: our defenses that keep us from having intimacy, our covetousness, our hatred, our possessions, even the physical barriers of skin and geographical location. And yet, there are moments in this life when we connect with each other on this deep level. It is very satisfying and can even give us the feeling of ecstasy on a momentary basis. Those are the moments I (and likely you) cherish. They are windows into the next life.
To truly be in relationship is a difficult thing. Our greatest desire is to be connected and intimate with someone and so, consequently, our greatest fear is that will not happen. This fear plays out in the many ways we throw up defenses that prevent intimacy from occurring. Why do we do that? Because we are afraid of rejection, abandonment, not getting the relationship we desire. Even when we have what seems like opportunity for intimacy, we protect ourselves from it to avoid risk. The risk is requisite to trust. Even in what we would call close relationships with trusted people, we activate defenses which prevent us from connecting.