The Sterile Curse of Social Isolation

“While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.”

Luke 24:15

Quite a few studies now out, revealing the reality of social isolation.  It seems more and more people are veering away from social contact. A Duke University study found that Americans are choosing to become more solitary than ever. Many are eschewing all relations all together.  This is a problem.

I’ve seen some of the statistics– fully 25% of people have no relationships at all, and something like 50% have no relationships outside of their spouse and children.  This disturbing trend is building momentum.  In 1985 the figure was just 15%.

I think that a lot of pressure may be coming from the internet, although Facebook and Twitter have reconfigured social connections. Longer work hours, the iPod and Blackberry, chat rooms and cable TV contribute to the move away from human contact.

The commute time is also a factor.  For every 10 minutes stuck in traffic there is roughly a 10% drop in social relationships.  So if you have a bad commute on I-80 you are more likely not to want to have a friend over.

Hundred years ago our society was far more geared for personal contact.  People would regularly visit each other.  Neighbors knew each other.  There were parlor games and dinners.  Music recitations and skits.  Card parties. Television and radio had not yet grabbed the countries psyche.  Sociologists and anthropologists confirm that our history was deep in contact with each other.  We were not built for solitary living.

With community life disappearing people are turning to online relationships. Our churches are trying to adapt, as even Christians are not connecting like they should.  I have been out in the Alaskan bush villages, and the older generation is frustrated because the younger generation seems to be in trouble.  “They don’t pick berries, or hunt; all they do is sit in front of the TV playing Nintendo, or their laptops.”

We need fellowship with others, and God as well. There are very few solitary believers.

I guess the biggest issue of all is mental illness.  Social isolation is a direct antagonist of depression and other disorders.  In order to get better, people must reach out and connect.  There is no substitute, no other option.

I see the shift in my own life.  I have dropped back about 80% of my Dish Network.  I am seeking to back off of being online 6-8 hours a day.  I am trying to be around flesh & blood as often as possible.  I am personally trying to consciously maximize that time.  It keeps me healthier.

To be healthier, we think its physical.  We have our gym memberships and we run on the treadmill.  That is good.  But I’m thinking we are losing out if we don’t workout socially (and spiritually) as well. Christians are  a special species; we need fellowship with others, and God as well. There are no solitary believers.

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”

1 John 3:11, NLT

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Is it Finally Time to Yield?

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I read a story about a radio exchange that took place some time ago between a U.S. Navy ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland. The Canadians warned the Americans and the conversation went something like this: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

The Americans responded, “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.”

The Canadians said, “Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

The Americans: “This is the captain of a U.S. Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.”

“No. I say again, you divert your course.”

“This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north. I say again, that is 15 degrees north or countermeasures will be undertaken to assure the safety of our ship.”

After brief moment of silence, the Canadians responded: “This is a lighthouse. It is your call.”

Sometimes we don’t like what God wants us to do, and we want Him to change course when, in reality, it is us who ought to change course.

We need to understand that God’s plans are better than ours. Having said that, it does not mean that they are always the easiest or even the most appealing at the moment. There are times when we are going through life that we might not like the plan of God. But God’s plans are always better for us in the long run.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

Isaiah 55:8, NLT

Can you say, “Yes, Lord. I am Your servant. Take me, use me, spend me. Fulfill all Your holy, eternal purposes in and through my life, whatever the cost”?
That area you have insisted on controlling, that part of you you’ve just stubbornly refused to yield, where you have insisted on things being your way – it’s time to drop your sword and raise your white flag. It’s time to surrender.
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The Consuming Weariness of It All

“For my life is full of troubles,
    and death draws near.”

Psalm 88:3

There is often a dull and desperate tedium among us– especially those among us with profound mental and physical issues.  It never lets up, and the grind is constant.  The sheer exertion is most unwanted.  Depression, confusion, paranoia, and mania weave in and out of our life.  They seem to have ‘moved in’ with us.  And, they intend to stay. Boo!

There is often a hopelessness present–an ugly realization that there is no hope for today, and that tomorrow will not be any different.  It seems we are always standing on the outside looking in. Some consider ending it all rather than live without hope. It is a terrible ‘frame-of-mind.’

Contained in the scriptures are many stories, and parables about wedding feasts and king’s banquets.  One one occasion, somebody wheedles his way in to the party.  And he is strongly confronted.  They bind his hands and feet, carry him out.  He is thrown out into the “outer darkness.”  The charge prompting this was his attire, it was all wrong.  He wasn’t dressed for the wedding. He did not belong there.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:11-14, ESV

Many have given into their despair, they now reside in “the outer darkness.”  They are no longer dressed for the banquet. Now I admit that mental illness and discipleship don’t always blend well together.  But the Father understands and he increases his deposit of grace to make up for this deficiency. He doesn’t treat his beloved sons equally. Extra grace is given to the chronically ill.

Those who limp are given extra help as they follow Him.

God has created us for this wedding feast. And it is with confidence that we look forward to this feast, for in Christ we will not be found naked but clothed in the white garments of His righteousness.  He took my dirty and filthy clothes and exchanged them for his own white ones.  We wear his gift, and Oh, what a wonder we are!

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
      For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
      and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
   I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
      or a bride with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10, NLT

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When You Hear Voices

I guess I’m in a wandering/wondering frame of mind.  I’ve been hearing voices off and on.  They are clear, distinct and I suppose  rather commanding.  Previously I’ve dealt with ‘tinnitus’, but this is definitely different.  The voices are not incredibly sophisticated–its usually just one or two words.  Quite simple actually.

Perhaps the full reason of why this is a problem,  because I wonder about some sort of ‘mental degradation’.

  • Am I getting worse?
  • Are the ‘voices’ the sign of the end for me?
  • Will they take over?
  • Will I turn into a blathering idiot?

This is an anxiety that I cannot carry and yet remain somewhat productive.

I have this image of a stark raving crazy guy, hung up on religion and ‘right-wing extremism’, foaming at the mouth and ‘heading for a bunker up in the mountains.’  But I am none of these things.  Maybe that’s why it scares me so.  I cannot relate to any of this, and I don’t want to.  I am not that person. This is not me.

The voices by themselves, not extrapolating their content, are disruptive enough.  They don’t have to be specific, all they have to be is loud and insistent.  It really doesn’t matter if I obey them.  They disrupt me just by speaking.  I hope that this level of discernment won’t erode away.

I have a new insight to my brothers and sisters who struggle with schizophrenia/bipolar.  Many are on the streets, and they are desperately homeless.  They battle with dragons on almost a medieval level.  Sometimes they push back the beastie, and then sometimes they themselves are slammed back.  But no matter what will happen that day, God’s love meets the warrior, and He lifts them up.

Voices.  These are not dredged up, or manipulated.  I certainly do not ‘manufacture’ them.  I certainly not doing this for attention.  But when they do press me (with an order or command) I do know that it is an alien voice, coming from outside of me.  I’m thinking if I can only hold on to that evaluation, I will come out on the other side.  Whole and complete.

I have to believe, that God is holding on to me with both hands.  He will not let me slide into the night, alone.  He has determined that darkness will never claim me.  I turn as I can, to look at Him, face-to-face by faith.  “He has come to heal the broken-hearted.  A bruised reed,  He will not break.  A smoking wick, He will not quench” (Isa. 43:3). What an awesome promise! We serve a gentle and protective God.

 

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