19 07 2010

Dear Matt, I am trying to respond to the Message that you gave at Sunridge yesterday; I have had a few false starts. It is really hard to talk about Proverbs 18:1 and, specifically, the topic of isolation without it sounding like

a) I am ranting

b) I am complaining

c) I am justifying

d) All of the above.

What I realized as I was chewing on this topic was that isolation has an ENORMOUS appeal. Isolation doesn’t mean I have to be some social-outcast, after all; it just means I get to be choosy. Isolation means I can hand-pick, right? “Isolate” the variables so that what I am left with, fits; fits me exactly.Yes, I like that.

People use other words for isolate (no one is going to say, “we have chosen to isolate ourselves” or “isolate you out of our life”) but the end result is the same. Isolating means I get to single-out those things I want and leave everything else, to someone else. Isolating is a dash towards more pleasant pastures so that whatever is unpleasant can’t really touch me (distance does that). Isolation can feel as if I am getting my life back: If I can choose, I hold the cards, I control the play.

Also, Isolation sounds a lot like insulation which sounds warm and safe; a barrier. I have window shopped there (Barriers-R-Us) and oh, some of those walls are so appealing: 2 foot ones, 3 foot ones, 10 foot ones, whatever I need! I have wondered if I can follow Christ and serve people but not care; you know, not let it bore down into my heart so much. I am wondering if those barriers would protect that vulnerable side of me and maybe I would sustain less bruises? Ah, there I go again about me; you are right about isolation being about fulfilling my own desires versus Christ’s, but “me” feels things and some of those things I am pretty tired of feeling.

In times of solitude (a different thing from isolation), finding what I believe in again, isolation comes and sits with me and lists off its benefits. Isolation is slick; it always, always nudges me away, towards an exit. Isolation removes itself; excuses itself with excuses. Several times a week, isolation plays its violin outside my window and I give it a nod.

Matt, you said, “I need to be for you, and you need to be for me;” stuck together somehow in this handshake called “community”. I must acknowledge that isolation follows the laws of gravity (a law I understand), whereas Community is a lofty idea that is harder to grasp. It is so like Jesus to ask us to do something upside down, once again. None of anything Jesus asked us to do involves us being isolated (from brother or friend). Any sort of solitude is only so we can get our head screwed back on so that we can jump right back into the multitude that Jesus had compassion for; the unruly, unmanageable multitude; that one.

“Being with” and “walking with” can be heartbreaking, humiliating and just plain hard. Who would sign up for this? But I did. I didn’t just sign up for Jesus without saying I would follow Him, and I didn’t say I would loosely follow Him; I said I would be a part of the group; that I would throw myself into the mix to affect the world. I didn’t tell Him what I would be willing to do, just that I was willing.

So yeah, bummer, I have had some things ripped off of me along the way as a result. I will not pretend it is fun or funny or pleasant in any way. I don’t always love community; especially not when it is prickly. But I love Jesus and in His defense, whatever pain I have experienced by “being with” people, God has made good of it (or is in the process of).

The service ended with communion and I really loved how you drew this message into that act. In communion we symbolically acknowledge our non-isolation. Jesus, you did not isolate yourself from me, and as I take the bread and cup, I am saying to you that I am not isolating myself from you; and by taking it with my brothers and sisters, we are saying we are all committed to end isolation and live integrated lives.

Integrate: to form or unite into a larger unit; to end the segregation; to find commonness and accept each other as equals.

— Teresa Klassen




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