I wandered through my church lobby on a quest for another cup of morning coffee. It always helps when I have a mission, so I walk with purpose. It doesn’t allow me to feel so alone in the crowd.
It’s not like me, this feeling of isolation. Emotionally and socially, I’ve been an island, with occasional jaunts over to the mainland.
I pour my coffee, hug it tight, and head back to the church sanctuary. The countdown clock on the screen notifies me to take my place on the stage.
Over the next few hours, I’m privileged to help lead thousands in a sweet time of worship, yet when the service is finished, I leave feeling invisible.
Isn’t that an ironic way to feel, especially when in a church of thousands nearly every one recognizes me?
But connection and community are so much more than visibility, so much more than a quick hug assuring each other we need to catch up soon, then don’t.
Community is a place where your heart is at home and you’re cared about in the little things. Community is being truly known — heart known — if only by a few.
The following Sunday, I ran into two friends I hadn’t connected with in a long time. When our children were little, I considered them close friends. Regrettably, life stages have a way of distancing friendships too often, and I am horrible about keeping in touch.
In those few minutes together, we dove deep into ways the Lord was working in our lives. It was a bit of heaven’s manna for this island of a girl who doesn’t do superficial chit chat well.
Out of the blue, one friend looked me in the eyes and reminisced about how much I had taught her about hospitality.
“I still think about it. You welcomed everyone in so often, even when it wasn’t all perfect, and that’s what made us feel at home.”
The other friend chimed in that I was the first person to invite their family over when they moved to town.
I hadn’t even remembered that. It occurred years ago, yet those were the years when I was fully alive and living in community, when my focus turned outward, toward others.
While their words spoke encouragement of past hospitality, I left inwardly convicted — convicted of my own self-centeredness, convicted of allowing feelings to dictate truth, convicted of throwing a good ol’ fashioned pity party for months but doing nothing to change the outcome when I had a choice.
To some degree, this island I had created appeared like a haven to those on the mainland. The problem with islands is that sometimes, while beauty abounds, they are very inaccessible unless someone bridges the gap and makes the way clear.
At times, we all create islands. For different reason, at different times, we isolate and hide. Whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, we close our hearts or withdraw.
Fear of rejection, hurt feelings, misunderstanding, grace denied, loneliness, unhealthy comparison, and the list goes on to the number of reasons we feel alone, whether literally or figuratively, and why we hunker down on our island.
David did that in Psalms 25:16-17: “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all!”
His loneliness brought additional distress.
The bottom line? We weren’t created to live alone on an island. It may appear a lovely place to visit for a few days, but we must not stay there. If you choose not to leave, at least invite others along for the journey.
Isolation is an enemy. It can roll in, take hold, and you never realize the riptide effect. Lies we believe breed in isolation because light can’t penetrate. And it’s in those moments, I gather my lifeline:
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.
Psalm 62:5 (NIV)
I pull and prod and plead for His words:
O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You.
Psalm 38:9 (ESV)
I yearn to remember His life-giving truth:
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. A hope both sure and steadfast . . .
Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
Oh sweet friends, I understand that place of inner isolation, but better yet, He intimately knows that solitary place. Our Savior walked that road before us and knows every step of the way.
Do you know that? Do you really believe it to be true? He knows us, sees us, and desires for us to live life fully alive with others in community.
I’ve had to shake myself, identify the very thing that’s been keeping me stranded on my island, and remind myself of this truth: “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7).
I’m claiming it now. Won’t you join me? Come on, just stick your toe in. He’s assured us it will be all right.
Can you identify the thing that’s holding you back?
He knows us, sees us, and desires for us to live life fully alive with others in community. -@beautyandbedlam: Click To Tweet