Have you seen the movie Up in the Air?
I saw it at New Year's with friends from Fuller as we welcomed the arrival of 2010 in Boston.
That movie slapped me on the wrist and then slapped me across the face. And it was actually a big catalyst in my admitting to myself that I was on the run. That's how long I've been dealing with this...since New Year's!
While I have a better relationship with my family than George Clooney's character Ryan Bingham, I related with a) his ability to efficiently pack a suitcase, b) his ability to navigate airports, security and rental car places and c) his desire to not be at home, to not be known. I felt that I was watching my own life from the previous six months play out on the big screen (not in every way, obviously, but in the overall idea, yes).
Bingham didn't put any roots down. Home was a place to store a few items. He didn't have any significant relationships. He really just survived in his own little frequent flier mile-collecting, city-hopping reality. He gave a motivational speech on the bare essentials that one needed in his or her backpack. He preached a light and mobile existence. An existence that stripped away relationships, so he didn't have to know or be known.
I loved the movie while I was watching it but at the same time I felt so guilty, so convicted! Because as much as I enjoyed watching him travel and do his thing, I knew the point of the movie was that his lifestyle was out of balance. It wasn't healthy. His relationships were shallow or broken and it was just plain sad.
So I left the theater. I left Boston. I got home to Nashville, January 2010, started winter quarter of classes and still felt so convicted. I felt God telling me to stay put for winter quarter. "What?" I asked. "You mean, 10 weeks straight with no traveling, no airports, at home, being around the same set of people." I didn't get an audible answer, a "yes you heard me." But I knew. So I stayed put for winter quarter (minus two quick weekends away with family).
I wonder if it was simply a test to see if a) I would listen and obey or b) I would actually start to work on the relationships that were shallow or broken or missing (you know, the lesson of the movie that so convicted me). If it was a) then I sort of passed. I stayed put, though I bargained for two weekends away for birthdays. If it was b) then I failed miserably because I still made NO effort to connect. I went to church; I met up with friends. But I mostly tucked myself away like a hermit in my house to do my work and school. I hid even though I was in Nashville city limits.
Could I have done better this past winter? Yes. Spring? Sure. Summer? Finally got there. And as I process things and consider the choices I made and start to see where things went awry, I must say that I could have made better decisions, I could have processed more efficiently, if I had shared with family and friends, if I hadn't closed off from others.
Maybe more now than ever before I understand the need for community and relationship. It's not just about fellowship or accountability with "like-minded" people, though it is about those things. It's about connecting with other people and sharing experiences and advice and beliefs and convictions; it's about sharing our lives with one another in what could be a very scary deep way, a very open and honest way. Community and relationship is about being honest about the hurts and the failures and the shortcomings and the joys and the successes.
When you try to carry that all yourself, it slows you down; you can't keep up with the group. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV). When oxen are yoked together to do the work on the farm or in the field, they share the weight of the load. They can do more work together than alone. I think the same holds true for humans - sharing the burdens and load of life will help us go further. In fact, I'm convinced of it after my experience this past year.
FYI, I read the book afterward and it's nothing like the movie. I actually liked the movie better.