Choosing Connection

Are your eyes down on the task before you - or up in openness to connect? Mandy Arioto reorients us to connection.


Choosing Connection

By Mandy Arioto

If I have the choice between getting through emails or chit-chatting with my seatmate on a plane, my default would be to choose email every time. Through my work at MOPS International, I get to travel the world and talk with a lot of women, and I've learned I'm not the only one with such a struggle.

You see, everywhere I go I hear the same two things. It doesn't matter where I am - whether it's sitting on the dirt floor of a home in Honduras or in a corner office in New York City. First, women tell me they feel exhausted because they are doing so much. Second, they tell me that they don't feel like they are doing enough with their lives. Exhausted because they are doing so much, and terrified that they aren't doing enough.

We are running around at the pace of Chihuahuas on cocaine while simultaneously feeling like we are stuck, tired, and lonely. God is stirring our souls, but we can never get to them because we are too busy pinning recipes to our Pinterest boards, which we will never actually use because we don't really have time for that either. We are a generation of women who are have forgotten what it feels like to be fully alive.

Just by chance a few years ago my mom ended up sitting next to a woman at a concert and they began to make small talk about the weather. Well, the small talk about the weather turned into small talk about families, which turned into small talk about the fact that this woman, who my mom was meeting for the first time, had cheated on her husband and gotten pregnant from a guy who was now in jail.

As the conversation developed, my mom found out that the woman had no one. Her family had disowned her, she had no friends, and she was so scared that she was going to have to go to the hospital and deliver this baby alone. So my mom said, "I'll go with you." And she did! A few months later she held her new friend's hand as she brought her baby into the world.

When my mom told me this story, she said that she has learned over time that God's love is lavish and scandalous and ridiculously inclusive. She said, "After reading about all of the messy people that God loved, it became apparent to me that God is not selective about the people he calls friends. And so I'm not either."

I did not receive this openness with strangers as a genetic hand-me-down from my mom. But watching my mom and the way she lives her life, I decided that I wanted to be more like her.

Now, every morning I ask God for experiences, then I release my grip on my email infatuation ... and let myself be open to whomever I am going to meet that day. When I approach the world with this posture, I am never disappointed with the results. Whether it is striking up a conversation in the waiting room while my car is getting an oil change, or asking the person who is checking me out at the grocery store how their day is going, I am now in the business of making friends in unexpected places. What I am learning is that God can use our small and awkward attempts at conversation and connection to change not only another person's life but our own as well. So, here's to less exhaustion and more connection.

Mandy Arioto is the President and CEO of MOPS International and is widely known for her unique takes on parenting, relationships, spiritual, and cultural issues. Her recent book, Have More Fun, is for anyone who has forgotten that fun is an option. Prior to joining MOPS International, Mandy was a teaching pastor at Mosaic, a church based in Southern California. She and her husband Joe, live in Denver, Colorado and have three children.

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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