This is the last in my summer series. I’ve so enjoyed re-visiting some of our favorite games. You have until Friday (August 11) to post your pictures of family game night. For every picture, your family will be entered in a drawing for a “family game night” themed basket. You get two entries if you’re playing one of the games I’ve written about this summer. Be sure to check out Ticket to Ride, Rack-O, Aggravation, Trivial Pursuit, and Don’t Break the Ice.
This last game needs no introduction. Connect 4 is often one of the first games kids learn to play. It’s easy, but some strategy can make it really interesting. And no matter who wins or loses, it’s fun to slide the little piece at the bottom and watch all the pieces fall out. Connect 4 has some fun variations, like the huge ones you’ve maybe seen at parties or my favorite, Connect 4 Hoops, which is an arcade game that combines Connect 4 and Pop-A-Shot, so you have to aim for certain hoops to win. So much fun!
But for our purposes here to day, let’s talk about making connections. Not small talk connections (I talked about getting past small talk last week in Don’t Break the Ice) or social media connections, but face-to-face time with a person you enjoy being around. Those types of connections are what makes life rich. They are the connections that give us joy and hope. They often sustain us. And we need to make sure to prioritize them.
It’s about to be fall. Well, not the actual season, but school is starting so for all intents and purposes, it’s about to be fall. Never mind the sweltering heat. The kids are going back to school. Gone are the lazy days of summer. Schedules are about to fill up. In our home, it’s football practice, dance, and theatre rehearsals. As a parent, there’s a temptation to schedule everything around the kids and forget to set aside any time for ourselves.
1. Connecting with others isn’t selfish
While connecting with others is a form of self-care, it’s not selfish. It’s not simply an indulgence because connecting with others also benefits the person you’re connecting with. They too need that human connection. They need someone to look in their eyes and tell them their feelings are valid. They need someone to help process their emotions. Or maybe they just need someone to listen to them. And even if they don’t need the connection as much as you, do it’s still not selfish because God makes it very clear we need connection.
2. Community is God’s design for us
One of my favorite passages is from Ecclesiastes. It’s one we used at our wedding and I even had engraved on my husband’s wedding band. (Just part of it because how small would that have been?) Anyway, the verses go like this:
"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." —Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
That three-cord strand could be used to describe a couple with God woven in, or it could be a third friend. The point of this is strength in numbers. We weren’t meant to live this life in solitude. We were meant to stand back-to-back with a trusted friend. And yet, when schedules get crazy, this time with friends is sometimes the first the get the axe. We experience God’s blessing when we live within his design. He designed us to live in community, so let’s take that seriously.
3. Connecting with others is good for you
If you’re not a Christian, I may have lost you already. But there’s no question that connecting with others is good for you. My daughter and I have spent the summer doing the musical Into the Woods with a community theatre. It’s been fun to get back on stage for the first time in 22 years, but the connection with others is what I’ve really been blessed by. Our cast and crew is pretty small, so we’ve been able to build meaningful relationships with everyone involved and what a joy it’s been. Emotionally, I feel healthier than I did at the beginning of the summer because I’ve had the opportunity to make so many connections.
So, how do we go about making these connections? Just start. Make the call. Send the text. Reach out to a good friend you don’t see enough of. Say, “It’s been too long. Let’s get a date on the calendar for coffee or dinner.” AND THEN ACTUALLY DO IT! Trust me when I say, I’m talking to myself just as much as you. And when you actually get together with your friend and at the end you or they say, “This was fun. We should do it again soon.” Pull out your calendar or phone and say, “Ok. When are you free?” And schedule it right then and there.
Maybe just have a regular time to meet. Once a month or so. And do you best to defend it when things get busy. You and your friend are worth the time you spend together.
If you can’t think of someone you want to see more often, find another way to connect. Join a Bible study, knitting group, book club, etc. Really anything you enjoy, find others who are already meeting and join up. If you’re feeling like you need more connection, you’re probably not alone. Well, technically you are alone which is why you need the connection. But what I mean is, others are in the same boat. They also need connection. So, initiate. Will it be uncomfortable? A little scary? Sure. But that’s how we grow. I hope this fall is one where you make some necessary changes to put relationships before stuff and activities. You’ll feel better for it. God will bless it. And you’ll grow from it. I want that for me and I want that for you too.