Do you remember being a teenager? Do you remember how important it was in your world to have someone, anyone, to call a friend? It was so important that we often didn’t care who they were. Anyone who sat next to us in history and was relatively nice could qualify.
Then you went to church and some adult spoke up and said that you needed to think about your friends. You needed to choose them wisely as their influence in your life could have massive effects on where you would end up. Then you though something like: Are you kidding me?! I can’t LOSE friends! They are the only ones I can get! Or, after looking at the way they lived their lives you might have decided that they were not the best people to hang around, but since you didn’t have any Godly friends, some friends were better than no friends.
But now it’s totally different. You are an adult. You are not just friends with the people who are relatively nice to you. You have a wide range of friends who you feel a real, deep connection with who don’t live near you, and that’s not to mention the way you work. You team up with a diverse group of people on staff to help implement your best stuff. You pull in volunteers who far outstrip your talent and give them ownership. And, you are careful to be aware of how those people’s character are influencing your own. Or not.
If only that were true. We are more likely to be like Elijah. You remember the story. He goes into hiding, and Ahab does everything he can to kill him and all the other prophets. Then, God calls to him and tells him it is time to return. There’s going to be a showdown devil came down to Georgia style (minus the fiddles and plus fire). On his way in, he meets Obadiah who explains to Elijah that he was able to save 100 prophets by hiding them in two caves and giving them food and water.
Then the oft-flannelgraphed drama happens: cutting, no fire, water, fire, and the end of a drought. As the people begin to return to God, Elijah runs away (again) and is curled up in a ball when God speaks:
“…‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left…’” (1 Kings 19:9–10 NIV)
I am the only one left. I am all alone. I am fighting this fight by myself. Well, except for the 100 prophets Obadiah hid in those two caves. OTHER THAN THAT, I am all alone! Poor me!
If I had a dime for every time I was talking to a teen, adult, or minister and they said something along the lines of, “I’d love to work with more people, but there just aren’t any around!” BUZZ! Wrong! I have yet to be in a place where God has not allowed me to be surrounded by great people, but I have often chosen to ignore them to make myself feel better (or worse) about my situation. I have used my self-created loneliness to justify my unhealthy, lone-ranger approach to life.
Sometimes it is because I don’t particularly like someone’s personality. Sometimes it is because I feel threatened by someone else’s talent, and sometimes it is because I want to wallow. Whatever the reason, it is unhealthy. We are not meant to be alone, and maybe it is time for you to reach out of the box we’ve made for ourselves and try living the connected, Body-of-Christ life that God created us to live.
Jeremy Steele has been working in youth ministry for the past fifteen years and now serves as the Next Generation Minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. He writes for Group Magazine, RETHINK Church and various publications and organizations. You can find a link to all the places he contributes on his website at JeremyWords.com.