One perk (of many) with my new smart phone is the awesome Bible app I downloaded. It makes it super easy to read the Bible conveniently and on the go. Generally, when I don’t have a set plan for my Bible reading, I’ll read the Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month. So, I had my phone reading Proverbs 18 out-loud to me, and verse 1 grabbed me: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Hmph, I thought. I’ve never heard this verse, or at least this verse put quite this way. Turns out, I was reading the ESV translation, which I rarely do. I switched to the NIV version, my default, and it had this to say: “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” Is it just me, or do these verses seem to emphasize different things? The second clause agrees, that it goes against sound judgment. But the first part of the ESV states clearly isolation is not good and goes against the desires of God, for man “seeks his own desire” in being a hermit. The NIV uses the word “unfriendly.” Now I’m thinking of a mean and grouchy man when that word is used, perhaps a grouchy man that is selfish, naturally. That makes total sense. But the ESV version really made me reflect. If I isolate myself, I pursue my own selfish desires, and therefore, it is not good, for any emphasis on self detracts from God’s command to love Him and others.
I’ll admit. I espoused George Washington’s international policy of isolationism in my social life, summed up like this: meddling in others’ affairs or making yourself known or making a scene or being assertive was not for me. The books were safe and predictable. And so, I passed through high school with perfect grades, a few close friends, and no social life. And then college happened. SOCIAL LIFE! WOOHOOOO! It was like a drug. Where have you been all my life?! I do believe I went a little over the top my freshman year, always trying to be involved in all the dorm activities, always trying to get “that” boy’s attention (does he like me? do I like him?), finally living the “wild” (in a very clean way) life I never had. It was like I was on fire. I can’t say it was healthy, but, there is a balance. Man, should not isolate himself.
“No man is an island.” How many times have you heard that? Did you know it’s a quote from John Donne’s poem? Here’s the rest of it:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Donne points out that our lives are all intertwined. When one man passes, a part of someone else dies. A life touches another, ignites a soul, makes someone else come alive. It’s powerful.
You know what else is also powerful? The Trinity. God loves relationship, and He Himself is involved in the most loving, giving, and sacrificial relationship of all with the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three in perfect communion. In the beginning, He said, “Let us create…” Who is us? The Trinity. He created man and said it was not good for him to be alone, and once he had a companion and creation was completed after mankind, he said it was VERY good. Not just good.
I realized in this verse, that I am depriving others by isolating myself. Many times I have told myself and others that basically I’m doing myself a favor by not getting close to them. By not opening up my heart and who I really am. But in actuality, this is can be a cover up for my own selfish fears of being hurt. But, I am hurting other people if I do not interact with them. God commands us to love others through actions and words, to grieve with others, to confess our sins, to basically be transparent and forgiving and joyful in others’ successes.
What do I have to give? you may ask. YOURSELF. You’re one of a kind. Why would God make people so different if He didn’t take joy in that? If he didn’t find you and your individual identity important? Share a smile, kinds words, a hug. These are simple gestures that can mean so much. Once I risked deeper friendships, I learned to risk being vulnerable, and in return, people were vulnerable with me. Together, we could encourage one another in Christ. And we then had a deeper friendship. Sometimes you may feel like you’re the only one giving, but don’t grow weary of doing what’s right. God loved to the point of death. You, then, can love others past your comfort zone.
I didn’t understand true friendship til college. My parents loved me and cared and cried with me. But to have true friends is priceless. I remember when I went through a painful break-up I hid myself in my room, very distraught, and would not come out until my roommate came back. I wouldn’t talk to anyone else in the quad area we shared, I only wanted my roomie. When she came to the door, I greeted her like a blubbering leaking faucet as I garbled out the bad news. I went to hug her, then realized, she was crying! I was confused, and asked why she was crying. I don’t remember her exact words, but she let me sit on her lap and bawl my eyes out. I am so blessed to call her my friend. I didn’t need words then, or explanations or analysis of the scenario, just empathy. Her tears and comfort were more than enough.
Now that I’m out of college and married, I’ve grown to realize the great importance of anti-isolationism. My immediate family doesn’t live here. My husband is my family. My friends are my family. I am there for them, so that in turn, they are there for me. I’m always so grateful when a friend is willing to do a favor for me or when a friend truly wants to spend time with me because they honestly miss me. I love when one of my girl pals texts me and says “I miss you!” or “We need to catch up!” I love honest and open heart to heart conversations. By not having them all these years, I didn’t just hurt myself, but I deprived others of the joy and love God could have conveyed through me to them in their time of need.
Remember: Islands may seem lovely, but only if they’re vacation spots like Hawaii. Risk being vulnerable. Risk being yourself.
Learning to love,