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Archive for October, 2010

I like islands… especially ones nestled in turquoise waters filled with colorful fish and playful dolphins. Ones that are far away from tsunamis, but blossoming with exotic flowers and sprinkled with palm trees. I used to think I would ADORE living the stereo-typical, laid-back island life. You know: lay on the beach, eat pineapple, learn to surf, be tan, swim with dolphins, buy a hammock… and relax with the people I love.

Hank’s friend, “Wilson”

..but it’d be a whole different story to be on the same quintessential island alone. Did you ever watch the movie “Castaway” (2000) with Tom Hanks? I couldn’t bring myself to sit through the entire saga, but I understand Hanks’ character gets so lonely on a beautiful island that he fashions an imaginary friend out of an old volleyball. Not exactly paradise.

John Donne (1572-1631), who was an English clergyman and poet, once said:

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main…” (Meditation XVII, emph mine).

Life is better when it’s shared. In today’s world it’s easy to live essentially isolated from one another — like islands sprinkled across a vast ocean. Sure, we are constantly physically around people…  but do we really know them?

I think America is detached and depressed. We dabble in escapist ventures — be it movies, video games, alcohol, fantasy books, self mutilation, prescription meds, or one night stands. We cheat ourselves out of authentic relationships with real people. Be it within families, marriages, friendships, or churches… the monsters of biterness, jealousy, insecurity, and fear get in the way of living in community. We get caught up with success, status, and self preservation… and it isolates us.

 …Let it be no more.

plumeria, Hawaii

This semester I decided to do something radically different with my life —  to set aside my own agendas and issues, trust God in tangible ways, and live more like Christ and less like me. (See “Taking the PLUNGE” entry.) The past month or so the concept of community has been turning slowly in my brain like a pig roasting over the fire at a sunset luau… the more it turns over the more enticingly fragrant it becomes.

It’s a counter-cultural idea… in a society that values people who stand alone (the rugged individualist), I’m suggesting we stand together. Not in a way that compromises who we are, but in a way that shares who we are with the people around us. I’m not promoting co-dependence, I’m encouraging authentic relationship… allowing people to genuinely know us and seeking to know others.

The words of Richard Stearns, President of the humanitarian organization World Vision, resonate with the idea of bidding adieu to this “island” life. He says that our idea of privatized Christianity, of faith merely being between us and God, is incomplete Christianity isn’t a quick prayer uttered in one of life’s corners, it’s a transformational relationship with God that should overflow into every aspect of our lives… in other words, it’s not lived in isolation. In The Hole in Our Gospel (Thomas Nelson: 2009), Stearns says:

“The idea behind The Hole in Our Gospel is quite simple. It’s basically the belief that being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal and transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world. If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith — and mine — has a hole in it.” (p.2).

Though Stearns is ultimately drawing attention to our responsibility to respond to global issues like poverty and rampant disease, I think his observation is spot on. We tend to compartmentalize our lives and our beliefs, and it hinders our ability to truly know and be known. Think about it… if you were to invite everyone you knew to the same party what would that look like?

Work friends. School friends. Neighbors. Family. Church friends. Out on the town friends. Sports friends. Facebook friends. New and old, everyone… would they know the same person? Clearly, people are multi-faceted and not each friendship will be a cookie-cutter of the next, but are we essentially the same in all our relationships… or do we adjust who we are based on expectations and fear?

the fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989

Friends, fear KILLS community. It breeds island dwellers. Authentic relationships simply cannot survive on the superficial; they have to be built on foundations of truth. (Think about what broken trust and betrayl do to a relationship, for example, when truth is compromised.) And truth-based relationships require a whole lot of LOVE, forgiveness, and vulnerability. The words of the apostle John come to mind:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:18

Perfect love casts out fear. Fear of being honest, of being rejected, vulnerable, exposed, judged. It is the polar opposite of pride. Pride demands self preservation… and, subsequently, it builds walls. The more proud we are the greater the distance becomes between “us” and “them”. But rather than distancing, love takes a risk and APPROACHES.

 

So, my hope is that we will distance a little less and love radically more. That we will build bridges off our islands and tear down the walls that protect our own pride and insecurity — and isolate us —  as we share honestly life’s pain and laughter, hope and love with the real people around us. Let us ask God for the courage and the grace to live in true community with one another. Let us bid farewell to “island” life.

Have a listen to Phil Wickham’s song, Beautiful. Nowhere is there a better example of perfect, unselfish love for others than that which is poured out in Christ’s love for humanity. It’s beautiful.

 

Photo credits:

http://www.softpedia.com/progScreenshots/Tropical-Island-Escape-Screenshot-35556.html

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://aquaest.typepad.com/.a/6a00e5551268ac883401157100e500970c-320pi&imgrefurl=http://www.sulisminerva.org/2009/07/being-a-bridge-nan-degrove.html&usg=__jCTksMbToWUlvLittDrtdsep9fA=&h=320&w=213&sz=10&hl=en&start=69&zoom=1&itbs=1&tbnid=c_dWUWjYFslatM:&tbnh=118&tbnw=79&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbridge%2Bat%2Bsunrise%26start%3D54%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Dactive%26sa%3DN%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D18%26tbs%3Disch:1

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/WK-AU418_TVREVI_G_20100623133659.jpg

http://www.brainmysteries.com/Images/cast_away_movie_Wilson_football.jpg

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