Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 song “I am a rock” was a big hit back in the 1960s. You probably know the song. It’s a rather sad and very personal song—not very cheerful. It deals with isolation and emotional detachment—but a great tune. The guy being talked about in the song has developed a tough exterior to hide the hurt inside, perhaps due to the hurts of the past. Who knows—many different ideas from the song. But it makes you think:
A winter’s day,
in a deep and dark December
I am alone,
gazing from my window
to the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
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
Don’t talk of love
well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock,
I am an island
I have my books
and my poetry to protect me
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.
God Created Humans for Relationship
The song reminds me of John Donne, the poet, who said over 300 years ago,“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”. You probably have heard that quote many times. What does it mean? Donne contends that all humans share in every experience. He says, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind”. Very simply it means we need people in our lives. Aristotle said a long time ago “man is a social animal”. And that is still true today.
With advanced technology today, we have access to every corner of the world. Our neighbourhood is a global one. Within seconds, we can find out what is happening on any part of the world—so to be an island, isolated away from the world, is difficult. But isolation is a reality for many who choose to cut themselves off. As a result, we have fractured and fragmented families, lonely senior citizens who won’t venture outside for fear of being attacked on the trains, or the gap between parents and children. Why is it that so many are cocooned and cut off from each other?
We do need each other. That’s how God planned it to be as the Bible mentions. He said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone”. The word ‘alone’ occurs in the Bible 107 times, and most times it has a negative connotation attached to it, except when referenced to God. The word ‘lonely’ or ‘alone’ means separation, or feeling abandoned, lost, unaided, unaccompanied, feeling by yourself. A schoolboy once said, With billions of people in the world, someone should be able to figure out a system where no one is lonely. That is a profound statement, and very true.
I think you would agree that we need friends. And even if you don’t it’s still true. It’s how we are wired up—and it’s crucial for living out God’s purpose for our lives. And most of us had many friends growing up, but many times, as we become adults, we become isolated and find in our lives that the number of ‘surface’ acquaintances increases, while the number of close friends decreases dramatically. I mean—those good friends that we can count on, talk to, share with, and cry on the shoulders of (those 3-o’clock-in-the-morning friends, who we can go to their house at midnight, eat all of their food and fall asleep on the couch) are few and far between.
Our culture and modern life doesn’t promote close friendships:
- we are a busy people with little time, who are constantly allowing the urgent to crowd out the important.
- we are a surface and small-talk society (we can talk weather, sports, hobbies, politics, movies, but not really go into conversations that get any deeper).
We are a fast-food people. We are not used to waiting for anything, we want things fast, we want them now—and friendships take time to develop. Developing friendships is risky; it’s risky to be open and honest:
- to let someone inside;
- to allow someone to get close enough to you, that they see the real you and can hurt you (we don’t like to be that vulnerable).
Good Friends Help Us in Our Life Journey
John Powell has written a book with the title Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? (Answer: Because you may not like who I am—and who I am, is all I have.)
But isn’t it great when someone knows the real you? Isn’t it refreshing when you can let your hair down—be yourself and not be afraid? Isn’t it relaxing when you can take off your mask, peal off those layers—and say, Here I am, warts and all and still know that you are accepted?
The New Testament tells us in Romans 15:7 (NIV), “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” . No-one is going to be perfect, but God has made us to connect with others.
Having good friends does so much more than we realise. I heard that Benjamin Franklin formed a support group of very brilliant people and called it ‘my most ingenious friends’ group. That group got together and they would write papers and discuss them, discuss questions, help each other in their careers and goals. They met every Friday night for 40 years. Franklin was accomplishing things in his 80s and 90s. Why? He had a support group that kept him growing.
Thomas Edison had a support group called ‘my mastermind alliance’. He put people with a similar life mission together and that group in a six-year period came up with over 300 patented inventions. They were averaging one minor invention every 6 weeks, and one major invention every 6 months.
Henry Ford said, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” God says, “As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 – NIV)
You can’t do life on your own. Ask God for some good and close friends to help you in your life journey.