Friday, January 6, 2017

Never Alone

Community is the very heart of God's story - that's why it is always worth looking at in greatest detail. No matter what page of the Scriptures you turn to, no matter what the story is, you can almost always, if not without exception, find community in every breath.

At the outset of his story, God declares, "It is not good for man to be alone," and He spends the rest of eternity proving the point.

When the angels of the Lord visit Lot in Genesis, there are three of them. The Lord doesn't need to send three angels to do his work; one would suffice.

When Abraham sends a servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac, we are told of the servant's journey to find Rebekah. But read even there, and you will find that Laban welcomed the servant and the men with him into his home for the night.

When David runs away and hides from Saul, you'd think he'd be hiding alone, since Saul was the king of the nation and everything. But when you read those tales, you quickly discover that Saul and all the men with him were hiding from Saul - the lowest numbers indicate about 40 men with him at one point, and even more at other points. 

Paul, we know, traveled with all sorts of companions, writing letters to the churches in his own hand but mentioning all of their names.

When Jesus is promised into the world to Mary, so, too, is the voice crying in the wilderness. So even the Son of God comes into the world in community.

This is the thread that runs through the Scriptures.

In fact, on the very rare occasion when we see someone truly alone in the Bible, there are two things going on: first, he is alone only because he has intentionally separated himself somehow from the community. Moses goes up the mountain (although on at least one occasion, we are told that he took Joshua with him). Jesus steals away to pray (and here, too, His disciples are often not far away). Jacob sends his camp over the river ahead of him.

And second, they are not alone for long. For as soon as they find themselves separated, God comes to them, and community is once again the story.

Now, I say all that to say this - we're never truly alone. No matter how along we feel, no matter what's going on, no matter in what lonely place we find ourselves, all we need to do is to read carefully our story, and we will find all of the other people in it.

We will find that, like Abraham's servant, though the story sounds like it is ours, there are others with us. And when we shelter, we must find space for all of us.

We will find that, like David, when we're running from the hard things and hiding from troubles, there are many others with us. And when we tuck away into a cave, the cave must be big enough for those who have run away with us. 

We will find that, like Paul, we start signing more than just one name to our letters. We become aware of all of those we are traveling with, those who are doing our work with us and enabling us to do well our work.

We will find that, even like Jesus, when we were promised into this world, so, too, were others. We are voices crying in the wilderness, and we have voices crying after us.

And we will find, even yes, that when we steal away for just a moment alone, when we climb our mountains, retreat to the garden, or send our camp on ahead of us, here, too, we are never alone, for our God quickly joins us. 

Beautiful community.

For it is not good for man to be alone. 

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