From the moment we are born we are dependent; no baby is able to provide or source nutrition by themselves. Day one is our introduction into living the way we were designed to be – in a community of vulnerability, where it is more important to find out how someone is doing then what they are doing. From the very earliest moments of our lives we become trained to cry out when we are in need.
And then we grow up.
Independence is suddenly societies main aim. Survival of the fittest becomes about the one, not the many, and our eyes are slowly closed to the needs of others as we race forward towards our own chosen finish line. With each achieved goal, each age related celebration, each new ‘first’, families taunt children with the joy of being able to succeed ‘by themselves’. Moving out and setting up home on their own is the last big step.
And then there is no one there.
True, no one is ever more than a phone call away, and technology unites in ways that it never has before, shrinking the world to a screens distance away from almost any location. But you are still alone. And more vulnerable than ever.
I know of a man who watched society from the outside; we set our calendars by his birth. He identified those with power and challenged their authority. He identified with those who were marginalised; left alone as outcasts and unclean. He saw their pain and wept tears of love and compassion. He noticed their loneliness. He also noticed it in people surrounded by friends, so he called them to Him and discipled them into a real community. Yes, there was tension, but that comes with true community. True community survives tension because it sees the vulnerable and includes their weaknesses and strengths into its existence to great an accepting embrace.
But as community grows it is possible to discover yet another challenge – that we are included and excluded simultaneously. I myself am a member of a good community. Over the last year or so I have allowed myself to become vulnerable and had an opportunity to discover how accepting and supportive my peers really are.
In becoming vulnerable, in allowing people closer I have discovered several things. First, true friendship is totally worth it. There is nothing like being there for someone, knowing their strengths but embracing their weaknesses and seeing and loving the reality of who they are. Second, vulnerability can lead to more pain. Not everyone is as trustworthy as they appear. Third, it is possible to be insanely lonely when surrounded by people. Fourth, retreating from people does nothing to solve loneliness.
I have found a community. I have trusted the right and the wrong people, and have been hurt by misplaced trust. But I do not give up on community. To do so is to accept that which society tries to impose on me – I can survive by myself. The reality is that I am made in the image of God, the image of one who both exists as community and builds it into His design from the very first day. I am created to be more than just me, and I urge anyone reading to strive to build genuine friendships that truly mean something, so that when days come when loneliness strikes, you can remember with confidence that you are not alone.