This week a read a book about a man who lived for 27 years alone in the Maine woods without ever having a conversation with a single human being. He survived by stealing from cabins in the off-season while the owners were away and looting a camp for children with disabilities. Finally, one dark winter night, with the use of surveillance developed by homeland security, he was caught.
One winter I spent a week alone in a snow-blanketed cabin up in Leleneau County reading and resting, praying and thinking, meditating and writing. It was a delightful time with the Lord, but when it was done I was eager to dust the nearly one-foot of snow off my car and return to the people in my life. Not this guy. He lived for twenty-seven unbroken years in unbroken, self-imposed isolation.
I’ve been musing on this some. The man they called the Hermit of North Pond waited until people were away and broke in and stole food, batteries, toiletries, clothing, and thousands of books and magazines, but he avoided any human contact.
How much richer would his life have been if he had spent his time and energy nurturing relationships with the people around the North Pond in Maine instead of stealing from them in the dark of night? Maybe they would have willingly shared with him.
How many winter evenings by the warm fire did he miss sleeping out in the cold alone? How my summer afternoons could he have spent fishing with the locals or swapping stories at the general store or volunteering for the camp which serviced children with disabilities? How many people could have benefited from his gifts and his intelligence and his help? How much richer his life could have been if he had balanced solitude and stillness with friendship and community and listened and loved and shared and talked and prayed and served among others.
He never knew the love of a woman. He never enjoyed the laughter of children. He never experienced the joy of watching their antics as they grow. He never sang with others or danced or played games or told stories. What a stark existence it must have been. He never listened to wise old men or learned from women of long experience. He never even let his family know he was alive.
To survive alone in the wilds of Maine for almost three decades makes a good story, but it seems like a very sad life. A life of isolation and no helping or being helped… that is not the way were were made to live and thrive and flourish as human beings. God designed us to live life in community with one another. We are at our best when we are helping others or encouraging them, using our gifts for the common good and the glory of God and the Kingdom that will never end.
We were not designed by our Creator to avoid people except when we can use them—to take what we can get giving nothing in return—not even a warm conversation or a sincere expression of thanks.
Bethel is a community. It’s a very special community because it is a cluster of families and individuals devoted to living the Jesus way. We have entered into covenant with one another to love, listen, share, give, help, and allow others to help us.
It can be a harsh and lonely world out there. It gets down-right ugly sometimes, but the Jesus way is a beautiful way. The closer we get to the way of Jesus the more magnetic our fellowship will be to others.
Peter, one of the apostles, wrote in his epistle; You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. (1 Peter 1:22 NLT)