Get Off Your Island

Judges 13:4-5, “Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head. for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.

Simon and Garfunkel. (If you have never heard of them, then try your search engine.) But I am willing to bet that there are some of you who remember them and their classic song, “I Am A Rock.” I want to start today’s note by sharing just a few of the lyrics from that song. “I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship. Friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island… I am shielded in my armor, hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock. I am an island. And the rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” Obviously the song was written to reflect the feelings of someone who has been injured in a relationship. They have been deeply hurt by someone they loved. And in the aftermath, the injured party has put up walls, isolating themselves from others in an attempt to ward off any future disappointment and pain. Sadly, the pathos of that song resonates with many people today. There is hardly a one of us who have not felt the pain that only a relationship can bring.

The greater tragedy is the ensuing response that often takes place. It is easy to become embittered and hardened to other people. We cut ourselves off from meaningful relationships because we think that living in isolation is the only viable protection. If I am the only one living on my “island, ” I cannot be hurt. Living in seclusion, I mistakenly believe my independence is a guarantee of safety from all future harm. Tragically, I could not be more wrong. True, a rock certainly feels no pain. But it also feels no joy. It cannot experience love. Yes, the island never cries. But neither does it laugh nor live. Independence is not freedom. It is a lie that removes us from the theater of all potential personal and interpersonal fulfillment. God did not create us to be disconnected and disengaged from the world around us. He created us to be connected to others.

Samson and his mother were connected. Quite literally. The first 9 months of his life would be completely and totally dependant upon her. According to the divine edict Samson’s Nazarite vow went into effect while he was still in the womb. For all intents and purposes that meant that his mother was also taking a Nazarite vow. God required her to adhere to the same dietary standards that now applied to her as yet unborn son. She was not and could not be an island. Her actions, her choices, her level of commitment would have direct and immediate impact on her child. His hope of life was tied to his mother’s obedience.

Samson and the nation of Israel were also connected. Also quite literally. The familial connection that had bonded mother and son would now extend to Samson and the people of God. Their deliverance, their eventual freedom from the tyranny of Philistine rule was now dependent upon Samson’s character. He was not and could not be an island. His actions, his choices, his level of commitment would have direct and immediate impact on his brethren. The nation’s hope of deliverance was tied to Samson’s obedience.

I am reminded in these two verses that God’s design has always been for connection. None of us are an island. We cannot and should not seek to live in isolation and seclusion from one another. Community and fellowship should be an essential part of every believer’s life. My actions have impact beyond myself. My choices create consequences that touch the lives of countless other people. But the decision is ultimately mine. Samson’s mother decided to trust God and walk in obedience. She safeguarded her choices, recognizing that her son’s future destiny was intertwined with her present obedience. Samson? Sadly, he decided to exalt self over the needs and concerns of others. His refusal to recognize the ripple effect of his choices and actions prevented him from fully realizing his divine potential. The nation’s deliverance would not be accomplished until the reign of King David.

Let me encourage each of us to abandon that island mentality. Yes, you’ve been hurt. Badly. But life is not over. The older I have grown, the more I have become convinced that the greatest resource that any of us possess is the relationships we enjoy. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Other believers. And from my own personal experience I have learned that Simon and Garfunkel were wrong. There can still be plenty of tears on an island. Regret. Anger. Loneliness. It’s time to get off your island and get back to living. There is a great, big world full of people and God created us to be connected. Now, get out there!

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