Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An Unusual Way to Increase Your Lifespan

For years, I was what you might consider "detached."  My wife and I had married, and in my early 20's, I lived a rather inconsequential existence.  I went to work, came home.  I played softball on Wednesday nights.  I went to church occasionally - maybe once per month. It was probably an "ordinary" way of life for most people.  But, it was dull.  Meaningless.

Three and a half years into our marriage, we had a son.  Obviously, he became the center of attention, and being a parent was certainly new and exciting and tiring.  But, still, life was rather ho-hum.  At the time, I likely didn't realize it, but I was missing something.

It wasn't until around 2002 that things began to change in my life.  I began to serve on Sunday mornings at the church.  I was the "bulletin guy."  I stood at the side entrance to the worship center and handed you the worship guide as you entered.  I was there every week for nearly two years, missing maybe two Sundays in that time.  I began to connect with a devoted group of faithful servants - Mike Davis, Brian Dodd, Pete Brumfield, among others. I looked forward every week to arriving at 9 a.m. to see these people and to serve at my post.

Around that same time, I was invited to attend a Bible study, which was led by Mike Linch.  At the time, Mike was the Associate Pastor at my church, and through our occasional interaction on Sunday mornings, I had come to enjoy talking to him - mostly about sports. At the age of 28, I was by far the youngest guy in this "Executive Study."  But, I was welcomed, and made to feel like an important part of the group.  I spent four years in that group, and learned countless lessons from the wisdom shared by those guys, most of whom were in their late 40's and 50's.

I could write hundreds of more pages about what has transpired in my life in the decade since.  In a nutshell, it's just been God at work in me and through me.  But, how did it start?  What was the powerful force that ignited the flame within me? Two words: being connected.

Before 2002, I knew only two people at our church.  And, Amy and I really didn't have friends we hung out with.  We sort of did life on our own (and with family, which lives nearby). But, we were missing out big-time.

Mother Theresa once said, "Loneliness is the leprosy of modern society."  The issue here is not that we disagree with this statement.  The issue is that we rarely see ourselves as lonely creatures.  But, if you are disconnected from other human beings, you likely are lonely - whether you know it or not.

Studies by a Harvard social scientist have proven that connected people live longer than lonely people.  That's probably, in and of itself, not a surprise.  But, did you know isolated people are three times more likely to die than those who have strong relational connections? Also, did you know that people who are in poor health, or who have developed poor health habits, live significantly longer than healthy individuals who are isolated? Finally, that same study showed that people who were not connected in any groups, but who got connected into just one group, cut their risk of dying in half over the next year.

I'm sure glad that I took advantage of the opportunities I had more than a decade ago to get to know more people, and to actually belong.  Those decisions have changed the course of my life and my family's lives - more than words could ever say.

If you are just coming and going, trying to do life all by yourself, you're missing out. But, it doesn't have to be that way.  Take a step.  Join a group. Get connected.  You'll be better for it.  And, so will those all around you.

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