When the movie, “Marshall” came out last year, my daughter told me that her friend’s father was in the film. So we watched with great anticipation. She told me that he appeared in two scenes in the movie. As the story played out before us, she suddenly jumped up and said, “That’s him!” I have to be honest. I actually got excited when I saw him. It meant I knew someone, who knew someone, whose father was famous now.
You’ve probably heard of the six degrees of separation game? In the 1990s, American playwright John Guare came out with a script based on the idea that everyone is separated from any particular person on the planet by no more than five other people. The idea actually dates back even further. In 1929 a Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, wrote a short story titled, “Chains” in which he suggests that we are all connected in this way.
These theories, made popular in fiction, have been the subject of much study in the area of social networks. By the 1960s mathematicians at M.I.T. had taken up the cause. They extrapolated that in a country the size of the United States we may be linked by even fewer connections. Psychologist Stanley Milgram followed up on this idea. His article on the “Small World Problem” in Psychology Today magazine vaulted this notion to new heights.
Do you remember the popular contest surrounding actor Kevin Bacon? It was started by three students at Albright College in Pennsylvania. They were watching the movie “Footloose” when the idea hit them. The goal was to link any actor to Kevin Bacon through no more than six connections where the two actors had appeared in a movie together. The result was a person’s “Bacon Number.”
No wonder I was excited. My “Bacon Number” was three to the actor in Marshall. It was almost as if I had a role in the movie myself. Of course, I didn’t really know the man. I didn’t even know his daughter. The whole idea started feeling pretty absurd. Then it hit me that if I made it a point to meet Becky’s friend, I might meet her father as well. That would be a real connection and not just an extension of a relationship.
Real is always better than imaginary. It is better to know someone than to know about them. It struck me that this is especially true when it comes to God. You can read the Bible and learn a lot about God. You can sit in a Bible study and discuss the ins and outs of our faith. You can debate issues of morality and talk about what Jesus would do. Yet, unless you actually take the time to get to know God, there will always be a degree of separation.
So here’s three ways to deepen your relationship with God. First, spend time with him in prayer. Come to him in humility and honesty. Confess your sins. Ask his forgiveness. Rest in his love. Second, study the Bible. God reveals his heart in it. You’ll find God’s promises there. You will be blessed and able to live more confidently. Finally, go out and serve him. You’ll quickly realize that when you are doing God’s will, God is always with you.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.