everyone is looking for connection, right? it comes through in the smallest ways sometimes- having the same favorite movie as someone else, seeing someone else using burt's bees, cheering on the same sports team, ordering the same meal from a fast food place- we love the feeling of relating or connecting to someone. in fact, some people even misrepresent their preferences in order to feel that common bond. people can all of a sudden become whatever you want them to become in order to feel like they have something to talk about (think of michael scott from the office). the smallest point of connection can even bring the least likely of people together, or at least make their glaring differences become momentarily peripheral. i think connection to another person is something that all humans long for.
i also have a theory that i do not believe to be original. i am sure some person in history has said this, but it was a new thought to me. so i apologize to any who believe i am adapting maslow's work or ripping off the musings of someone else i haven't heard of, but i promise there is no intentional plagiarism here, just something i have been thinking about for a while.
imagine a pyramid (ok, so maybe i am ripping off maslow, or at least the food groups). at the peak of the pyramid is an intimate relationship with God (not self-actualization or fats, oils and sweets...). this is truly the pinnacle of connection. there is nothing more fulfilling than an encounter with the Divine. this can be experienced through a number of different venues- corporate worship, service, prayer, the presence of the Spirit, etc. knowing God and being known by Him is irreplaceable and impossible to recreate.
now just below this level on the pyramid is intimate relationship with another human. there is nothing wrong with this, but it is obviously inferior to Divine connection. it is also more readily available or at least more easily accessible, thus the broader section on the pyramid. this level could include such things as a great friendship, family bonds, marriage, dating relationships, and sexual relations (within the right context). again, all wonderful things that we can experience, but still a level away from connection to God.
the third level is what i described in the opening of the entry- human connection. this can include having the same favorite sports team as someone else, sharing a laugh or humorous experience, making eye contact with a stranger and many other things. again, all good things, but nothing special compared to the levels above.
the next level is physical distractions. for instance, if someone cannot find that human connection, they may eat ice cream to avoid feeling sad (and get thicker hips in the process). there are tons of items that fit into this category- money, cars, houses, video games, computers (including online chatting)- anything that can be used in attempt to fill a void. again, not terrible things in and of themselves, but not as desirable as the upper levels.
the last and least desirable level is sinful pleasures. this includes anything that can become addictive, such as drugs, alcohol, sexual encounters, pornography and on and on and on. this is by far the most broad category, and thus occupies the base of the pyramid. sinful pleasures are all at the tip of every american's fingers, from the maxim magazines at the 7/11 cash register to the wobbly bar stools of the local sports bar to the sanitized waiting room of the plastic surgeon's office.
i think we dwell in the lower region of the pyramid so often because americans have been brought up to believe that the easiest road is the best. why work all our lives when we could just buy that winning lottery ticket and sit on our butts for all of eternity? why try so hard to have a good, solid marriage when we can just get divorced if it doesn't work out? why deal with my problems in a mature, logical way when i can just have jack daniels make the problems go away for a while? why wait for the reward in the end when i can get instant gratification? in the end we trade true, healthy intimacy for a feeling of pleasure, whether it be an orgasm, getting high, feeling popular or well-liked, status or whatever helps at the moment.
the scary part of all of this is that the church has not done much better than "the world" in this category, and when we settle, we move further and further away from the top of this pyramid. we cannot settle for a surface relationship with God anymore. we need to throw off what hinders us and truly believe that there is nothing better than an intimate relationship with God. i know it is difficult for me. i am too often lured in by the here and now, instantly gratifying, earthly endorphins and only afterwards can i see that satan is on the other end of the rope that dangles in front of me. i know that reading my Bible will benefit me and draw me closer to God, but a movie is so much more entertaining. i know that a Godly relationship with a Godly woman is what i want, but checking out that website is so much easier and accessible. in my heart i know that connection to God is what i desire, yet i find myself surfing through my phone book trying to find someone else to spend time with. i want to stop settling for cheap replacements and seek after the heart of God. i wonder if the writer of ecclesiastes would agree…