a compromising position?

You know how it is, you are having a perfectly normal day when all of a sudden, unannounced and uninvited, your mind is invaded by a song or a piece of music. It is not necessarily something you hear, but it’s been in your subconscious and chooses to surface into your conscious awareness. And you can’t get it out of your head once it has made its home there for the day.

That happened to me today, and if you don’t want it to happen to you I suggest that you stop reading this bloggage and look at another one, or do something else altogether.

You have been warned.

This song just jumped into my brain this morning. It’s by Paul Simon and was released by Simon and Garfunkel before I was born:

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

And a rock can feel no pain
And an island never cries

Thatcher’s Rock, Torbay

Although it is a lovely melody sung with lovely harmonies I find it an incredibly sad song. The singer has been badly hurt by someone and has decided that they are going to go it alone. They don’t want or need anyone else. They are a rock, and island.

It’s awful when someone has been hurt so badly that they cannot trust, they dare not risk becoming vulnerable again. The pain of betrayal has become too much to bear. However, at the risk of offering some amateur psychology, the problem with this approach is that the pain and hurt remain on the island with you. And if not dealt with they will grow deeper roots into you and perhaps also start to dominate the way in which you relate to other people even at a superficial level. Please forgive me if I have touched on a raw nerve, but if I have please do get some professional help. You don’t have to remain as a rock or an island.

We are created to be in relationships. We cannot exist on our own. That is why one of the cruelest punishments or tortures is solitary confinement. We need interaction with others, and perhaps that is why some people react in the way that the song describes when we are badly treated by others. We’re about to take one of my slightly unexpected twists and turns in my train of thought at this point, so if you are not ready for that feel free to leave us at this point.

I believe that the way in which we are created makes rock / island self-sufficiency a myth. If you remember the British TV series, The Good Life, Tom and Barbara decide to become self-sufficient by growing their own food, farming their own animals, making their own clothes (and awful peapod burgundy wine) and even generating their own electricity. But one of the consistent comedic themes through the show is that they were not able to be completely self-sufficient. They constantly needed the support of their neighbours Gerry and Margot. They needed to barter and trade with shops for things they could not supply themselves. They needed to interact (bizarrely) with what passed for normal suburban life. They were not a rock or an island, they needed other people (and one another).

Self-sufficiency is not only a myth for people and households, it is also a myth for churches. Baptist churches are independent – in the sense that each church has liberty under God to decide how they do things. But sometimes as churches we hold that independence as a virtue and value that trumps interdependence. We proclaim that we are a rock, and island. We don’t need anyone else.

But the danger of taking that approach is that churches can become isolated. They can become insular. They have nowhere to turn when the storm around them rages and threatens to overwhelm them. Are we actually at our weakest when we think we are being strong by asserting our independence? Yes, like for individuals, it means risking that others will disagree with us. Yes, like for individuals, it means that we will be vulnerable. Yes, like for individuals we might need to compromise* (I’ll come back to that word in a moment) for the sake of relating.

*Compromise is often seen as having negative values – if we compromise our beliefs we water them down. But if you break the word down it is about promise and ‘com’ as a prefix means ‘together’. It is about promising together where focus on what we gain more by being together rather worry about what we might lose. It is about sharing, mutuality, dependence, respect and integrity not being wishy-washy. It is a very strong activity that strengthens the participants.

Are you a rock, an island, or are you compromising?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s