The other day, I was coming back home from a men’s Bible study that I started attending this month. I love attending Bible studies around my city — whether it be from my church or a neighboring church. I get excited to sit down with a group of people, hang out, and discuss different books of the Bible. This has become a normal thing for me, being involved in some sort of church event. I grew up this way, and I’ve disciplined myself to have at least one person around me to talk about God stuff.
But after the whole ordeal with my church, I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone or be in a community again. I isolated myself and didn’t open up to anyone about the problems I was having or what I was doing, like having unprotected sex with random guys.
This is what my pastor said during a sermon about isolating yourself from a community:
There are events that occur to all of us in life. There are things that happen in our lives that cause us to tend to be isolated. That’s one of the reactions. We want to be alone, we want to be isolated, we don’t want people around. What are those events? Past hurts, being rejected, a physical aliment that you’re dealing with, a painful relationship that you’re involved in, and it gets a person to a place where that person says, ‘Why should I ever be vulnerable again? All that happens is I get hurt.’ So what that person learns to do is a coping mechanism: they put walls around their lives, they build high castle walls, like medieval castles that protect them, but it alienates them and isolates them, and they find themselves rattling around in that castle to their own peril.
That was me. I had to deal with my own isolation and peril. I was in a very dangerous place in my life: I trusted my own judgment, and I didn’t want to listen to anyone during those years of hooking up with different guys.
I think Proverbs 18:1 says it best:
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.
As I said before, I didn’t want to listen to anyone! I loved being alone. I loved solving my problems on my own, because I told myself that being independent was the best.
No one to hurt you, no one to piss you off, and you know your own trouble.
Yet, this made my growth in the Lord very, very slow! Says Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 —
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
This passage says a lot! Not only to have that one friend who’s there for you, but also to have a group there for you, to pray for you, to let you know that they are with you through thick and thin.
The truth is there was no one to pick me up. I didn’t allow anyone to pick me up.
In the end, I didn’t have anyone to back me up whenever I was in trouble. If someone made false accusations about me, I didn’t have anyone by my side to tell them, “I know him! You don’t know him, and you don’t know his heart.”
That was one of the downfalls of not having a community by me.
Like a wounded soldier in an active field, his buddy trying to save him from enemy fire, I was also bleeding from my wounds — yet I had no one to save me.
That’s why you need a community. Whatever hurt you experience, whether you are exhausted with life or your struggle, you have people who can carry you on your path to recovery.
Once I found a group of friends to call my own, it took me a couple years to finally open up again — not by coming out with my sexuality, but telling people the truth of my walk with Christ and my life. To be honest to say that I was hooking up with a guy, or to say I was depressed and disappointed with my church that I went back to attending.
It was a slow process, but the friends I’ve made through the years I can now call my family — maybe even more than that. Says Proverbs 18:24:
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Yet how in the world do you find a community like that? What does that look like? In my next post, I’ll discuss what I found in my small group and what they showed me.
Do you tend to share your problems with others or keep your problems to yourself? Do you have trust issues with other people? How can you take one defined step out of isolation and toward community?
* Photo courtesy The Javorac, Creative Commons.