Read first: Psalm 25:16-21 // Psalm 133 // Ecclesiastes 4:7-12
Growing up, I was a very skittish child. Sensitive to scare tactics, I steered clear of any haunted house, horror film or really anything that could induce fear and panic. Needless to say, I haven’t outgrown these traits yet. As I got older, I had no other option than to grow thicker skin, as the trendy weekend activity for 16 year olds was going to local haunted attractions. For my friend’s birthday party one year, she decided to get a group together to go to the Lewisburg Haunted Cave. I said yes, despite my sweaty palms, two weeks premature. Now let me be clear, when I say haunted cave, I mean this was a real, natural, functioning cave. And because it was a real, natural, functioning cave, that means no fire exits (thus meaning no turning around or swift, emergency exits) and it was over 2 miles long. And to place that cherry right on top of the pie, the actors were allowed to touch you and separate you from your group (we signed many waivers). I had no idea what I was in for. I distinctly remember all of us brainstorming together right before we entered. Our operation tactic? No man left behind under NO circumstances. We all linked arms and set off for our very long (over 2 hours to be exact) excursion. We got creative with our tactics to stay together, which included but was not limited to, a giant blob held together by linked arms (very red rover style) and the hoodie tactic (a desperate cling to a friend’s jacket hood). I love this memory of my friends and I because it joined us in such comradery. There was a unity among us that could not be broken. We were determined to make it through this haunted (real, natural, functioning) cave without getting separated. We knew that we needed each other.
As we continue in this study of our sojourn with God, it’s important to look to your left and your right. Who is next to you? Who is walking with you on this journey? Who are you clinging to as you cling to the Lord and follow His every footstep? We need each other on this journey. To be human means to crave and desire connection – we are physiologically designed to thrive in spaces of genuine connection and comradery. This journey was not meant for loneliness, but I think so often we choose it. We are living in a culture that upholds extreme independence and self sufficiency (and sometimes it’s just more comfortable and practical to choose isolation over connection). We over-exert ourselves to foster idyllic human flourishing and sustainability. So much so that it paradoxically breaks us in half. Loneliness is a word with a sharp edge, an entity that we’ve all felt deep within our souls. It’s restless, it aches and it has serious pangs. We know it before we can name it sometimes. Loneliness carves an irregular shape within us– one that is so intricate and dynamic, it seems as though nothing will fill it or fit into it. The pangs of loneliness create within us a space that is discontent, isolated and restless. It is not supposed to be this way. In the very beginning of all creation, God instills a sense of longing for connection and companionship within man–that it is not good for man to be alone. I also love the picture that Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 paints, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” This journey is long and hard. Like the time I found myself trapped in a haunted cave, I desperately needed my friends to cling to. I love how Jess Conolloy says this, “God’s yoke is easy and His burden light. If it feels too heavy, maybe you’re carrying too much. What can you put down?” We cannot carry all we face in this life. We desperately need a community to help us hold our things, while also knowing we are not a burden to those around us. Let’s link arms, knowing that we have a place to lay our heavy things and friends with backpacks who are willing to help carry them on the way.