In February of 2011 I attended a conference called Empowered to Connect that opened my eyes to a profound truth about connection. The theme of each lecture revolved around helping children overcome extremely difficult life challenges through meaningful connection. I had already been made aware of much of the content through trainings I attended when working in the mental health field. The first RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) Conference I attended was painfully enlightening as I saw the devastating impact of children who grow up in a disconnected environment.
The good news I walked away with at this conference is “connection heals.” But not just any type of connection. Not just in physical proximity but in emotional closeness and safety. Not just in being in the same room but in focused eye contact, purposeful listening and a genuineness to understand. A connection that speaks of our undistracted availability in each moment of real life. A consistent connection where children develop trust and rest. I add rest in this equation because rest is the opposite of a life of anxiety that many times comes from fearful uncertainty. And sadly many children suffer from fearful uncertainty.
The most enlightening truth came from the keynote speaker sharing out of John 15:4- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”
This verse is about CONNECTION. Deep connection. We were not created to to do things alone. We were not created to be disconnected from God or one another but to produce “fruit” through those connections. Fruit is “that thing” that others can “taste” about our life, causing them to celebrate with us, weep with us and just be with us with no agenda. (Like God does perfectly with us. He really does enjoy us.) 🙂
Think about our first connection.
Our child is not only formed in our womb, but is deeply connected to us through the umbilical cord. This physical connection is what keeps our baby alive throughout development in the womb. Though the cord will be severed at delivery, connection at every level continues to keep the baby alive.
As our child grows physically, the capacity to grow emotionally, spiritually and mentally is like a garden that needs our tender care and focused attention. Our child’s first experience with “abiding” or “being one with” is found in their relationship with us or a consistent caregiver. Children who have this experience are connected; even children who have different abilities to receive connection and respond to connection.
Children need to know through a relationship of trust, they are loved and safe. Loved children will feel connected. The beauty of this truth is, all children have the ability to be connected. The sad truth is, not all children get this experience because they enter the world through a mother who might not have a deep connection herself. And for many other reasons, a child ends up being a disconnected child, thus, we have conferences to educate us on how to connect with children who are disconnected.
I believe long before conferences on connected children were held, God set the example in His desire to stay connected to us in John 15. Not only does He give us life, He continues to desire connection with us. In fact, if you read John 15:1-11, you will see that His end goal of our connection with Him is our joy.
God is already joyful so He doesn’t have to “work on” being joyful so He can raise joyful children. He just knows that if we hang out with Him long enough, we will “catch the joy.” He doesn’t teach us joy, He offers us joy in connection with Him. How true this is with His plan for our own babies. Our joy becoming their joy…through CONNECTION. Of course this does not mean a denial of real-life sadness, but it does mean that even in the sadness of life, His Presence bring us safety, calm and peace, therefore, securing our joy.
And as you raise your babies, they will look to you and take note of where you find your joy. They will do this because when they awaken to the yuck of this life, they will want to know if there is an answer. And the answer for the long run is not ultimately in our connection with them, but their connection with God; their Creator and joy giver. If you get anything from reading my attempt to paint a picture on joy and connection, get that God makes a way for us to experience real joy in life through connection. Not manufactured joy or superficial connection but deep, abiding joy in our connection with Him and others..a joy that births creativity and fruit within us. And that creativity leads to our fulfillment whether we are writers, dancers, scientists, preachers, musicians, artists, caregivers or…WHATEVER it is God purposed for us and our children.
Side-note:If you are going through something traumatic, don’t count yourself out to know joy. In fact, the deepest joy I’ve known, came through one of my deepest sorrows. It came when I couldn’t wrap my mind around ever “feeling” joy again. It came when I looked at my connection with God and His promise in Psalm 16:11.
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
God created joy to be connected to connection. First with Him (Where we begin to see He really does love us, care for us and redeems our pain) And then to one another. (Where children learn to trust they are loved, cared for and will be comforted in this life.) As our children need us less and less (And they will), their connection with God will give them the capacity and the resources to overcome in the most painful of life circumstances. When our children grow from “abiding with us” to “abiding in God,” they are set up for an even greater joy than the glimpses we have given them or the lack of.
But no beating ourselves up for our imperfect parenting…instead, let’s find joy in our connection with God and one another. Let’s show our children thorough connection that they are worthy of our attention and that we enjoy them. Let’s make it real and let’s learn from God…the One who created us for connection.