No Man Is an Island
- Thursday, December 02, 2010
I still remember a college graduation card I received with the following quote on the front.
No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
— John Donne
At the time, I was surrounded by a fraternity of friends and I never gave the passage much thought. However, over the years I have come across this quotation at different seasons in my life and it challenges me to evaluate whether I am solidly plugged into and part of a larger community of friends and believers or if I have broken off from the mass becoming separated from others, an island unto myself.
As a single who has been one a lot longer than planned or expected, I find it easy to remove myself from community and to have selective fellowship, even more so since I travel and find myself on the road for the better part of every week. I can easily justify coming home and using those limited hours for "me" time.
However, over the years, I have found it isn't healthy emotionally nor spiritually to live a life detached from a body of believers or disengaged from people. I can be in the midst of a relationship(s) or within a group yet still find myself disconnected from others and my surroundings.
Mitch Albom, in his book Have a Little Faith, says it this way, "You can touch everything and be connected to nothing."
When we separate ourselves from people, be it family, friends or community, we place ourselves in danger and will soon find ourselves inaccessible, unsupported and unaccountable.
I recently heard about a friend's husband who alienated himself from his church community, segregated himself from his family and was isolated in a virtual reality of internet and video games. Not having an accountability or support system in place, he walked away from his two-year marriage and his job, and sought a new life unto himself.
It was very much of an Eat, Pray, Love epiphany (best-selling book and popular movie about a confused woman who divorces her husband after having an affair and discovers a new life through food, spiritual enlightenment and another man).
When we focus too much of our time and attention on our own wants, desires, needs and "happiness" apart from others, we oftentimes pull away (consciously or unconsciously) from those around us and make ill-advised decisions in order to achieve them, including walking away from God, much as Saul did (1 Samuel).
Even in the reality show, Survivor, where the purpose is to "outwit, outplay, outlast" the other players and be the final person on the island, contestants find they cannot "stay alive" without making at least a couple of alliances with people they trust. They require the skills, life experiences, strengths, encouragement and support from others in order to succeed, and we do too.
God did not create us to live a life of isolation.
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18).
Recently, I received an opportunity to literally experience first-hand what being on an island is like when I relocated to one for work. I came to discover I not only missed the culture I was raised in, the familiarity of my surroundings and the ease of doing business, but also felt the isolation and support from longtime friends, family and church.
We were created for community with others and for others. God knew we would not function well by ourselves and encourages us to do otherwise.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We see this being effectively lived out in many godly men who had a brother in arms to walk with. Moses had Aaron, David had Jonathan, and the disciples had each other. None of us are immune from the need to be in community with others.
Most of us have had friends and mentors come and go, married and moved on, or uproot and leave. It is not uncommon to feel a sense of abandonment and weariness at the thought of "starting over" again to establish new friendships and relationships, but it imperative we do.
But how do we circumvent the natural tendency to become isolated through the attrition of friends? Intentionally and deliberately!
No one is going to beat down our door and lead us into a relationship with them. Each of us must decide it is something we want, understand it is something we need, and intentionally seek opportunities to fulfill it.
On my second Sunday on the island, I went to church by myself, sat alone in the auditorium and didn't know a soul. While I listened to the message, I clearly felt the Lord telling me I had to take a deliberate step in order to get connected because no one was going to do it for me.
As I exited the building, I walked around the many booths offering a variety of activities and ministries while wresting with God—knowing what I should do and hesitant about doing it. I finally purposefully signed my name on three empty lists—one for a small-group, one for a recreational activity, and one for a men's group.
When I ultimately did, I felt a peace and confidence God was going to use each of these situations on my current journey. Through these activities, I made some life-long friends, experienced new and exciting adventures and learned more about myself.
Despite my struggle to fit in, make new relationships and get established in an unfamiliar community, this opportunity to move away from all that I know has caused me to grow and challenge myself in ways I could have never planned nor expected.
Yet, every day it takes a conscious intentional effort and deliberate decisions on my part to be in relationships with a community of believers.
As long as I don't seclude myself on my own man-made (or physical) island, there is so much I can learn if I give others the opportunity to speak into me and so many people I can impact if I am willing to invest my life into them.
If you need a spiritual advisor—ask around at your church. If you are missing a parental figure or mentor in your life—seek someone willing to fill that role. If you don't have a friend who shares your interests—go and be that friend to someone else. If you feel you are the only one on your island—start walking because there are many others who share your feelings.
Being single does not mean being alone. Singleness is a season, alone is a choice.
Get connected today.
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.
**This article first published on December 2, 2010.
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