“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12
John Wayne is not a good role model. Our culture idolizes him far more than we recognize, but it is a very misplaced worship. We follow his image of the cowboy loner, the tough guy who can overcome everything on his own. We believe we need nobody. When life gets tough, buckle down and power through it. Show no emotion; never ask for help.
I believe we are called to live in a way entirely opposed to the John Wayne culture. I believe God is love and we are made in God’s image. This means we are called to love, and we are called to base our entire being on loving. That doesn’t really work if you’re a loner. Love by definition is relational and requires community.
Even as I type this I realize how often I cling to the worldly notion of individuality. So often I try to achieve everything on my own before ever giving up, asking for help and allowing others into my heart. It is far easier to have a heart of stone and to put up walls protecting your soul from others than it is to tear them down and allow others in. That risks pain, betrayal and heartbreak. It’s much safer to do it alone.
This is why we claim to feel alone when we go through trying circumstances. We feel as if no one understands our pain because we close ourselves off from the outside world and don’t allow anyone to understand and help us carry our weights. And so often we blame God – even when we don’t realize we are doing it – for “allowing” us to suffer through a miserable situation and for “failing” to provide someone to help us through.
It’s all a lie. In these times we develop tunnel vision and we lose the ability to see anything that doesn’t perfectly fit our idea of the ideal solution. Because of this we simply miss the fact that God does provide. God provides exactly what we need to overcome our struggles, and God almost always provides far more than we could ever imagine.
But we have to open ourselves to see it. As people move away and take steps out of our lives, God brings new friends in to help fill the void. As we suffer great personal losses, God grants us close confidants who desire nothing more than to hold us as we cry into their arms. They will not fill the hole in our heart perfectly on their own, and they will not make us forget our pain. God would not want that, because then we would forget people when they move on and we would lose sight of our past struggles rather than learning from them.
I have been blessed to not suffer anything near the personal turmoil that has afflicted so many others. But everywhere I’ve gone and every friend I’ve lost, God has provided for me.
I realized today that tomorrow will be the first Easter I have not spent with members of my family. Until last year, I’d spent every Easter with my parents, sister and grandparents, and last year I was with my aunt and uncle. This year I will see none of them on Easter Sunday.
For a few seconds I was saddened by the thought. But then I thought about the people God has placed in my life during the past nine months that I’ve lived here. And I realized I was wrong.
Tomorrow morning when I trudge my way up the path from Lithia Park to watch the sunrise on the morning of the Son’s rise, I will be with family. We might not share a last name, but we share something far greater: love. And on the day we celebrate God’s greatest act of love, what better way to do it than to enjoy the company of family?
As people come and go in our lives, don’t allow the pain of losing someone you care about to harden your heart and turn you into John Wayne. Open your eyes and see that God is providing in the midst of your loneliness. It probably does not look the way you would expect or request, but really, what family looks exactly the way you would hope?