As the exponential growth of technology continues to facilitate instant personal communication with a myriad of contacts, it seems ironic that our ability to maintain meaningful real-life (as opposed to virtual) relationships is taking a nose-dive. I know numerous people who suffer from depression, isolation, and loneliness, regardless of their intellect, variety of interests and hobbies, or charisma. Indeed, the old song “I Am a Rock,” by Simon and Garfunkel, could serve as the anthem of our culture in this friendless, fatherless, motherless generation [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ealhxti03pk]. When I was young and this song was popular, that song served to shore me up in some kind of strong castle when I felt rejected by my peers; I remember these words encouraged me in my self-perceived virtuous resolve to manage everything on my own and avoid trusting other people. Here are part of the words to this nearly-legendary song of my early teens: “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, but I’ve heard the words before; it’s sleeping in my memory. 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. And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries” (part of lyrics copyright by Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel). I actually WAS the subject of ridicule, or at least, so I imagined, from my classmates; apparently reading foreign-language dictionaries and doing science experiments with plant hormones was NOT a typical pastime for a seventh-grader. I also managed to strike out at kickball more than once; my failure in athletics only increased the shame of my bookworm status. (Wearing ridiculously thick glasses didn’t help my image, either!)
However, the message of the Gospel runs in complete opposition to the proclamations of this song. God didn’t design us to muddle through life as loners or hermits. In the Bible, the only Person strong enough to navigate life (and all eternity) successfully in His own power and strength was Jesus Christ; He is the only Man referred to in Scripture as a Rock. In I Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul describes Jesus as the Rock and explains that He was the Source of the water that God had brought out of the rock for the Israelites when they were thirsty in the wilderness (Exodus 17:5). Although it seems odd that water would ever spring from a rock, this water is living water that will always satisfy (see John 4:10). This water from the Living Stone is available to all of us. In John 7:37-38, we read that “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” Peter encourages us to come to Jesus, the Living Stone (I Peter 2:4), who has been rejected by men but is precious to God. Jesus, the Living Stone that is the source of this supernatural Living Water (aka life itself). In fact, many places in the Bible exhort us to rely on the Lord as our strength and depend on His power and resources rather than on our own. Nowhere are we encouraged to wall ourselves in and sing an anthem to the isolating, fortifying power of our own rejection, no matter how enticing the lyrics or melody may seem.
Isn’t it interesting that the only One who CAN manage every aspect of life, for all eternity, on His own — with His own power, strength, and might — is the One Who chose of His own free will to create us for relationship, first with Himself and then with one another? His tears of compassion for us are equivalent to water from the rock. Father, forgive me for the times I have attempted to isolate myself and hide in my own self-appointed bunker of solitary confinement. Call forth water from the Rock and cleanse me of my tendency to withdraw when wounded or disappointed, and empower me to continue to pursue relationship with You and with others. Thank You for the Rock, Jesus — my strong Tower and Fortress, my infinite supply of life-giving Living Water!