I am constantly struck by the sad reality in our western culture that men often walk through life in isolation. Even sadder still is how alone men tend to be in the Church. Our first father Adam hid in the Garden of Eden and generations later his sons are still hiding. The harsh reality is that when we stay hidden and isolated our needs go unmet and it seems to be only a matter of time before we reach out for some new kind of old forbidden fruit in an attempt to meet the God-given needs we neglected to get met in the first place because we were hiding in isolation. As you can see it is a vicious cycle.
Historically it was not always the case that men walked alone. One only needs to look to Jesus, the consummate man, to see the example set for us as he formed his own group of twelve men within which he had his own inner three. Finally, when Jesus sent the disciples out into the greater community they always went in twos. So why, if the Creator said it is not good for man to be alone, do we continue to live and die on an island surrounded by unhealthy things that we’ve collected to pass the time?
Speaking of “unhealthy things that we’ve collected to pass the time” – these usually come after the fact that we have isolated ourselves and these things tend to take us deeper into isolation. Why? Because very few men want to admit that they struggle in life with things such as: loneliness, selfishness, self-hatred, lust, envy, pornography, feelings of not belonging, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attraction, lying, stealing, cheating, substance abuse, extramarital affairs, even wondering what it means to be a man as they try to understand masculinity and where they fit in, or if they fit in, and the list goes on and on and on.
It doesn’t matter what we each might struggle with individually as men. The symptoms might look different from man-to-man but the roots are basically the same – those being that we are isolated from each other and therefore not getting our non-negotiable needs met by each other: non-negotiable needs such as time, friendship, to feel safe with men, vulnerability, emotional intimacy, respect, care, love, brotherhood, approval, affirmation, acceptance, to be seen, to be heard, etc.
Again we need only to look to Jesus as our example. The night in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus was filled with anxiety and reached out to his men: “…remain here and keep watch with me”. Jesus needed his brothers to hold space for and be present with him. He didn’t even need them to say anything. He just needed to know that he was not alone. (How many times do we choose to give advice to a brother, or try and solve his problem when perhaps all he needs is to be heard and seen?) The beautiful point here is that we serve a God who needs and who exemplified what it looks like for a man to ask for what he needs.
No matter what we wrestle with on our private, isolated, islands, at the end of the day we are all just men. We were not made for forbidden fruit. We were made for the Tree of Life. We were not made to be alone. We were made to be in community. We were made to lean on and brother each other. What would it look like to reach out to safe men and begin to build bridges that connect our islands? Route1520 is one such place where men can do just that – and what would it look like to find other bridges like Route1520? They are out there men. Are you willing to look? Are you willing to risk? Are you willing to need and be needed by men? I invite and challenge us all to unlearn our isolation and instead remain with our brothers and keep watch.