Jeremy Huggins wrote a nice reflection on 2 Timothy 4:9-18 over at Catapult magazine. In it he emphasizes (along with Paul) the value/necessity of relationships in the church in the life of a Christian. He began the piece remembering a recurrent fantasy from youth in which he would run away to a life of solitude. I had those too. Mine were spurred by reading My Side of the Mountain in about 5th grade. It's a story about a kid--close to the age I was when I read it--who did run away and was able to live in nature and have all kinds of adventures. I thought that would be totally cool. Then, as a burgeoning adolescent, I read some of Heny David Thoreau and the experiences he had when he "went out into the woods, to live deliberately". (Confession: I've probably read fewer than 5 full pages of Thoreau, but I think the guys in the movie Dead Poet's Society read him, and I've watched that a few dozen times.) All that to say--I've had similar fantasies. But Jeremy asks a good question:
I often think that The Lone Ranger must have been awfully lonely. He had a traveling companion, but one who thought this pale-face’s ways were strange. Behind the romanticism of being mysterious and unknown, did the Lone Ranger (what was his name?) ever wish he was the Communal Ranger? Was he always alone, and so never knew what non-lone life was like? Or was it really all it was cracked up to be?
I never wanted to run away because I really wanted to be alone. It was more that being with other people can be dang hard. Even now, when I entertain those running-away fantasies, my wife always comes with me. We get along pretty well most of the time. But I don't think that's what Jeremy, or Paul, or Christ, have in mind when they encourage me to live in community. Trouble is, I usually don't want to put in the work it takes to develop and sustain meaningful relationships with others. Heck, I don't put enough effort into my marriage relationship and we live together. How am I supposed to develop connections, comradarie, and trust with other people who have competing interests and time commitments, just like I do? But more problematic for me personally, I've just had so many experiences of losing important relationships, not through unresolved conflicts, but rather through the course of life. People grow apart, people move away, people just get busy. And when I experience that pain of lost relationships, it makes me all the more hesitant to pursue new ones.
I won't rehash all of Jeremy's argument; you can read it yourself. But I am convinced by it. And, I am truly thankful that Jesus is the "friend who never disappoints". That doesn't always mean all to me that it should--I'm not a spiritual superstar. But, the great grace of it is that it's true whether I'm recognizing it or not.
boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."