Thursday, March 19, 2015

Solitude


It isn’t good for the man to be alone.  –Genesis 2:18

God said these words about Adam, and proceeded to create Eve.  Thus began the first family, and just like any time there are people together, there was trouble.  Maybe that’s why God had to keep promising—to Jacob, to Moses, to Joshua, to the disciples—to be with them, to never leave them alone[1]--to help them as he helps us to get through our troubles.[2] 

God also promised that whenever we are gathered together in his name that he would be among us.[3]  Sometimes there’s nothing quite like the beauty of people working together in Jesus’ name.  And there’s nothing quite as ugly as people being ugly to each other.  We are people who need people, but we don’t like to need each other too much, so we are like the push-me-pull-you (pushmi-pullyu) from Doctor Dolittle,[4] each trying to go our own way while at the same time inexplicably connected with each other.

Why can’t we all just get along?[5]  I suppose that’s a question for the ages.  We could blame it on that first family or the serpent or even on God,[6] or maybe it’s just human nature.  Thinking like a writer, I would say that something always has to go wrong to make the story work, to keep us interested, to draw us along through the plot and wanting to see how it all works out.  It always works out in the end, though, doesn’t it?  Even the Bible, in the end, has us all in heaven singing praises to God and to the lamb with the entire host of heaven and people from every tribe and nation.[7]

We live in a world full of people.  Maybe that’s why we crave solitude sometimes, and yet God said it’s not our permanent state.  It’s not good for man to be alone.  Maybe God was the first parent to realize the difficulties of having an only child?  When there are two or more children, they can play together, but when there is only one, the parent must also be the playmate.

For whatever reason, it seems we are stuck with each other, and so we have a choice:  we can make it work and enjoy the beauty of helping and encouraging one another, or we can make it ugly and deal with the consequences.  The beauty of being together is that when there are two or more there is the potential for love.  A person who is alone can only love his or herself, and we can thank the Greeks for the story of Narcissus so that we can see how badly that can turn out.[8] 

But wherever God is, there is redemption.  The person alone who is looking at God instead of the mirror becomes someone who then reflects God to other people.[9]  Jesus spent time alone in prayer, and we need that kind of alone time, too.  Jesus also brought us the living example of grace.  His message to the disciples, the message he told them to tell the world, is that we are forgiven.[10]  And Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that we are to be ambassadors of reconciliation.[11]  No matter how ugly we are, or how ugly somebody else is, there is forgiveness, made possible by God through Jesus Christ.  Even when forgiveness seems impossible, it is possible.  We can get along if we let God into the equation, and somehow we are best equipped for this possibility if we’ve had some solitude with God first.

The goal is to get along.  Is this what we’re teaching?  In some ways yes and in other ways no.  American individualism isn’t quite the recipe for harmonious community, depending on how we approach it.  Self-care is important, but self-esteem may be leading us down a dead-end road.[12]  As much as we are quick to claim the right to be our own people and make our own decisions, we are not alone in the world and everything we decide for ourselves has the potential to impact someone else.  The more we take that into consideration, the more we grow and the better we get along with the world.

Plays nice with others – This was what our kindergarten teachers hoped to write on our report cards.  As we got older, our successes were measured differently.  Knowledge was rewarded with good letters.  Initiative was rewarded with dollar signs.  Persistence and creativity and hard work were rewarded.  But in the end what will last beyond the schooling and the jobs and the bank accounts are our relationships with people.  In the end we will need people to care for us just as much as we did when we were first born. 

We are people who need people.  May we learn to live together in beautiful, harmonious peace.




[1] Genesis 28:15, Exodus 33:14 , Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5
[2] See Isaiah 43
[3] Matthew 18:20
[5] Paraphrase of Rodney King in 1992 about the riots in Los Angeles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_King
[6] See Genesis 3
[7] Revelation 7:9
[9] 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
[10] John 20:23, Matthew 6:12,14-15
[11] 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

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