The Gift of Isolation

What’s the nature of our life together?

For years, I was under the impression that “community” meant a sort of seamless “inter-meshing” of lives; a true uniting of individuals.

I’ve now come to understand that this belief has caused a tremendous amount of stress and strain in my life.

I was speaking with my counselor this summer (don’t have a counselor? Get one. Trust me.), and I was talking about my dad.

Here’s what you need to know about my dad: he had a big personality. He was a salesman (a really good one), and it showed through in most of the dynamic of our lives. He dominated—albeit benevolently—our family for decades.

Then he had a stroke.

A big one.

He really shouldn’t have survived but he did (and we are grateful). Furthermore, he’s made a remarkable recovery: he gets around, and talks and interacts and everything.

But much of the “largeness” of that personality was taken from him in 2004, AND FROM OUR FAMILY AS WELL.

We were sort of left reeling. There was a void at the center and point of our family, and also in my life as a man. All of a sudden, the man that was supposed to help me navigate fatherhood (not to mention my 40s and 50s) was gone. In its place there was now a wall, a barrier, that was just spray-painted with the word, “Stroke.”

I could no longer get to the man that I’d grown up with. I was left outside. I felt that, deeply.

I felt very alone.

I was relating all that to my counselor (again: don’t have yet? get one. trust me.), and he reflected back that to me: “So what you’re saying is that since your dad’s stroke you feel isolated from him?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “That’s it.”

Then he hit me with the big guns.

“Well, all he’s done is pointed out a central truth of our existence: the truth is, we are all isolated from each other. We can’t know perfect union or relationship in this lifetime. To be human is to be isolated—to some degree or another—from each other.”

.To be human is to be isolated—to one degree or another—from each other.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks.

And then it set me free.

It’s easy to labor under the illusion that we can expect perfection:

  • perfect families
  • perfect jobs
  • perfect community
  • perfect relationships

In actuality, we live in an “in between” world:

  • in between Genesis and Revelation
  • in between brokenness and beauty
  • in between fracture and healing
  • in between isolation and reconciliation

This is the human condition. Freedom comes when we begin to accept it, and release those around from the burden of being perfect.

(Including ourselves.)

It may sound like a sad or depressing to think of ourselves as ultimately isolated from each other, but it really shouldn’t. I think it’s really simply choosing to accept and to live in the reality that God has given us.

The truth of the matter is that we will know this someday.

Just not quite yet.

The exciting part is that it can start now; we can begin to move closer to each other.

But only if we know where we are starting from.

Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. (1 Corinthians 13v12 CEB)