Messages from Young Adults

Lesson 13: Social Support: The Tie That Binds

In this quarter’s lesson, we’ve looked at many different dimensions with regard to health, healing, and happiness. We’ve seen how proper nutrition fuels our minds and bodies so that we are able to do God’s work. We’ve seen how important exercise is to general well-being. And, we’ve noted how the mental, spiritual, and physical aspects of our lives are deeply enmeshed. Restoration, temperance, happiness, spiritual fitness – these are all words or phrases that we might hear or talk about from time to time, but we don’t really bring into constant focus when we think about how to be healthy. We have learned that good health is more than spending time in the gym and passing on the cupcakes. Essentially, everything adds up to state of mind in which we should perpetually find ourselves – a state of praise. As beings created to praise God, the apex of total health should be to join creation in singing praise to God.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Psalm 98:4

Today, it’s sort of ironic that people, social beings by nature, strive to be so singular, so autonomous, from everyone else. At least in Western culture, we are taught from an early age to strive to be better than our peers, or anyone else for that matter. When emotional hardships strike, the impulsive desire for sympathy and understanding is seen as a sign of weakness. Years back, the U.S. Army ran a campaign entitled “Army of One”. The slogan was quickly changed (to the current “Army Strong”) because it was perceived to be contrary to the idea of “teamwork”. No matter how hard we try to rebel against nature, it is clear that humans are social creatures. I love that God acknowledged that at the beginning by noting, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18)

John Donne, a medieval metaphysical poet, put it well:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…
On this planet, we are surrounded by people all the time. While it’s beneficial to take a break and retreat into solitude every once in a while, the fact remains that most of our interactions are with people. Those relationships, whether intimate or accidental, are opportunities to listen and be listened to. It’s no wonder that God sent His son in the likeness of one of us so that we could better relate to Him (and He to us). The human experience cannot be replaced by anything that we can’t wrap our minds around. Praise God that He knew that! What’s valuable to realize is just how powerful relationships can be. Having that common ground of understanding and shared context can be crucial for building a stronger and more meaningful relationship. Imagine how the church members in Corinth or Ephesus might have felt if Paul started his letters to them along these lines:
To whom it may concern, you might not remember me – I passed through your quaint town a few months ago and visited your synagogue but only stayed long enough to chat with the elders and grab a bite from the potluck line – but I’m writing to give you some very important advice on how you should run your church. While I’m at it, I’ll also give you some tips for living and working together as I’m sure that you’ve got some issues to work out and would appreciate the help. I don’t know what your particular situation is, but I’ve just come off from a stint in the church in Philippi and I’m just going to tell you what I told them…
The letters of Paul are so striking because they are written from such a heartfelt standpoint. Reading these missives, we get the sense that Paul knew his audience – he knew the people he was writing to. He knew their struggles, their shortcomings, their successes, and their dreams. How different our own interactions would be if we spent significant time getting to know not only our family and friends, but also those who we meet on the street or, particularly, those we don’t agree with. If your heart breaks for others as Christ did, then the desire to truly relate to them and know them should bear on you as it did on Him. The very idea of imitating Christ entails being “reformatted” so that we return to our original created state. When we gaze at Christ, it is evident, from how He lived, how He treated people, and how He, yes, loved His enemies, that the center of Christ’s character was unselfish love for others.
As humans, then, we originally were made to love and care unselfishly for those who were around us. That is certainly part of what it means to have been made in the image of God. We are made, therefore, to love and to be loved, and this we cannot do in a vacuum. We need people to love, just as people need to be loved. This is what community and family are all about.
-“The Original Image”, Adult Sabbath School Lesson
How may we go forward, then, and minister to each other? What difference does it make to our individual and collective well-being? One person may twinkle, but like so many stars in the sky, interwoven individuals constellate and shimmer in an infinite tapestry that will dazzle whoever may gaze upon it.

Tagged as: , , ,