Deep within all of us there is a longing for connection. Studies reveal that even as infants healthy connection is vital to our mental and physical health. Infants show immediate signs of insecurity, dissatisfaction, and irritability even when they are away from their mothers for a short period of time.
Curt Thompson describes these important early connections in his book The Anatomy of the Soul.
Your sense of your mind is dependent on and shaped by your interactions with other people. In fact, you, like all babies came out of the womb looking for interaction with your caretaker. From the moment you entered the world, your mind has been powerfully shaped by your environment, and no part of that environment is more important than the interactions you have with other minds. Much more than a toy or blanket, a parent’s facial expression, tone of voice, or scolding glance will actively impact the way the mind of the child—in this case the brain/body portion of it—will function. From the beginning of life, no one’s mind functions completely independently from the minds of others. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman.
As an adopted child who was taken from my mother’s arms immediately after birth, I have often wondered how much chaos the absence of this early vital connection brought into my world. To be placed in foster care for three months with a woman who knew she would not keep me, must have had implications, too. Though my foster mother met my physical needs, I am sure that she was careful not to get too attached. I wonder how uncertain my world must have felt. Certainly, I must have known on some level that something was not right. My foster mother told my adopted parents that I was a very good baby, so perhaps I learned even then to make the best of my circumstances and sooth myself.
If you have read my story on this blog, you know that being placed in the home of my adopted parents, did not provide the healthy connections I needed either. For as far back as I can remember things did not feel safe in our home, but out of necessity I learned how to manage life on my own without those vital connections. I also had to learn how to manage when I was sexually abused by my adopted father at a young age. I honestly do not know how I did it. Thankfully, there were moments when I sensed God in the midst of my pain which gave me the hope to hold out that one day He would rescue me from the nightmares I lived through. He also gave me the ability to remove myself through my own imagination and ability to create stories that removed me from my deep internal pain. But the longing for healthy connection never went away.
Thank God I’ve learned through recent studies and books like The Anatomy of the Soul that our brains have plasticity and are able to heal from even trauma at an early age. This gives me great hope.
I have often been very confused how the connection I felt with my former abusive pastor had major healing effects in my life. It was one of the reasons I stayed in the relationship with him. From the very first hug he gave me after I told him my story, something changed inside of me. This pastor heard my story, hugged me and told me he loved me, and I sensed a notable shift. In those moments following, I felt more secure and happy than I ever had before. Someone knew me and loved me. It was the connection I had longed for my entire life. Is it any doubt that even when abuse entered the picture that I did not want to let go? I was scared to death of being alone again.
Today, as I look back on that relationship I am beginning to understand that the early connection I felt with him before sin entered the picture did heal something in me, because even though the relationship went to a bad place very soon after, my mind healed in those initial early connections when I finally understood that I was not meant to live life on my own. The connection I had with him produced in me a longing to reach somewhere besides inside myself for what I needed most. What a clear evidence of God’s ability to work even what the enemy meant for evil for our good and His glory.
As I began to see the destructive aspects of what had grown into an addiction to this pastor, I realized the only way I would be able to break free was to connect with others in a healthy way. Although I knew I could not tell others in the church about the abusive relationship I was in with their leader, I tried to connect with them by being as honest as I could with them about the struggles in my life without giving then specific details. And it helped tremendously.
A day stands out clearly in my mind when I made another connection with a friend I had learned to trust enough to let into my world. It was the day after Thanksgiving and we both sat outside a store on Black Friday crying over painful circumstances in both of our lives that we felt powerless to change. We were humbled by this reality and reached out to one another and to God for help. And the fellowship of suffering happened, love connected our hearts to Him and to one another as we found the strength to make it through these bad circumstances together. In those moments, God felt nearer than He ever had. And I miss this friend so very much.
How deep the pain of searing loss, the Father turned His face away. Jesus joined us in our pain when He took the sins of all of us on Himself. In those moments just before death He experienced the worst of consequences of our sins, the lack of connection that would lead to death.
Sin separates and brings great loneliness and loss, but love connects with us in our pain and brings restoration and life.
We sat across the table from one another at our very first lunch. Sins consequences had wreaked havoc on both of our lives and it was clearly evident as we listened to one another talk. There was no room for rejection or for pride as we sat there stripped bare before one another. What could we do but humbly admit our powerlessness over our own circumstances and our desperate need for God? And in those moments, Jesus came.
He was devastated by the realization that he had lost so much while he grieved the loss of his mother. She had never found freedom from the effects of abuse in her life, and had clung to denial until almost the end. The loss of all that she could have been had she been loved as God wanted her to be crushed his son’s heart for his mother. As his wife, I have lived through this pain with him and experienced it, too. I saw it in his mother’s life, my mother’s life, and in my own. He has listened to my tears and felt the pain of all the years that have been lost to abuse. We’ve walked and stumbled and struggled and fallen together. But in the fellowship of our suffering, God has been there in ways we wouldn’t have recognized any other way.
Jesus said the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. That love only comes through connection.
Is it any wonder that Satan tempts us to sin so much? Sin separates and breaks the connection that reveals so clearly the love of God to the world.
No matter how far we’ve fallen from the grace of God, we must never forget that God does not condemn us, but rather calls us to bring our sins to the foot of the cross and receive forgiveness and the reminder that we are covered always with the righteousness of Christ and connect with Him. He wants us to know He loves us so very much and longs to connect with us. He is praying that this connection is manifested to the world through our love and connection with Him and one another which so often comes through the painful reality that this world is not our home. It also comes as we rejoice over His great love for us; the unbreakable, unchangeable, never-ending connection that one day we will see ever so clearly when we are finally home with Him.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 17:20-26 ESV