My son David has a Spotify playlist entitled “Songs my dad almost liked.” I’m pretty impressed that he picked up on my love-hate relationship with these tracks that on the one hand, are musically and lyrically compelling – even as they tend to be dark and depressing. On the list:
David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is about a lone astronaut in space who loses contact with earth - a metaphor of our isolation and fear of abandonment.
“Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads explores the idea of a moral compass, questioning whether the objects of our life pursuits have any real meaning or purpose. "And you may say to yourself: 'My God, what have I done?'"
And Roger Waters of Pink Floyd sings: All that you love, All you create, All that you do, All that you say, All that is now, All that is gone, All that’s to come, and everything under the sun is “eclipsed by the moon.” He then concludes: “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”
As I listen to these and other songs on the playlist, I find that there is a recurring theme of loneliness, abandonment and a general sense of life’s futility. The message resonates with me and, I think, with all of us. Loneliness is the plague of our generation. This is ironic, because we’re surrounded by people and seemingly connected with a broad network of friends. But I once heard it said that loneliness is not about being separated from the crowd. It’s about being in the crowd - unheard, unseen, unknown, and unloved.
I’ve been a Christian for a long time, and yet I still go through seasons of feeling lonely and depressed. I don’t think in this life there’s a cure for these experiences. And yet over the past several years I’ve been experiencing new levels of relational connectedness that I never knew were possible. To get to this point, I’ve had to go through a reorientation of the way I see myself, the way I see others and the way I see God. I’ve come to understand that if I am created in the image of a God who is in eternal relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – then my identity is bound up in my relationship with Him and with other people. To put it simply: the Christian life is not something that I do alone. I have been created for relationship, and I can only discover my purpose and meaning in life as I live in deep connectedness with my family and my community of faith.
Have you ever wondered why the Lord’s Prayer is not in the first person singular? Why don’t we pray: “My Father in Heaven . . . give me this day my daily bread . . . forgive my sins as I forgive . . . and lead me not into temptation . . . but deliver me from evil” ? Wouldn’t this be a more accurate reflection of the way we think about the Christian life?
As it is actually written, the Lord’s Prayer establishes a basic orientation for human identity and our relationship with God. We were created to be part of a group, a family, a tribe. We are meant to relate to God not only as individuals, but as a community. The individualism that has been fostered by modern Evangelical Christianity is a blight that has left many young people feeling bored, disconnected and on the brink of disengagement.
In this series of posts, we will explore the idea of identity in community, considering specifically how the Lord’s Prayer fosters relational connectedness.