Isolation

Isolation- Computer Virus of the Heart

Author: Chaplain, Lt. Col. Brendon O'Dowd, USAF, (Ret.)

Photo by Airforce is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Defending our nation is our calling, but that calling is being challenged in new and insidious ways through the medium of technology.

Computer viruses are an ever-present danger but how do you defend yourself from an enemy you cannot see? Will anti-virus software really protect you from every attack? The battle is real and most of us have experienced a computer virus that found a way into our system infecting our data and programs. Sometimes it seems the safest thing to do is unplug your computer. While being unplugged is safe, it is no longer a reality in our world. We are never really off-line, so we must be vigilant by protecting ourselves with anti-virus software. The experts tell us the real danger is our tendency to be gullible. A tantalizing email or urgent request for money lead many to click a link that opens us up to malicious and destructive code.

The Christian life can be very similar to our technology. We know evil is always around and seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). That’s a real and present danger. But there are many seemingly innocent things that can cause years of untold damage when we allow them into our lives with a “click.” Isolation and pride are two of those things.

In America, we pride ourselves on being independent. Even as toddlers, we have the tendency to think we don’t need any help and proclaim to our parents that we can tie our shoes all by ourselves. We grow up with that same tendency fully embedded and dismiss our parent’s wise guidance. We seek to earn our own living and retire in style, without being dependent on anyone else. This sense of independence is healthy in many ways, but can become a problem when it leads to isolation.

We think we can handle anything by ourselves, even our “issues.” Ironically, basic training taught us to work as a team and depend on a battle buddy. But basic training ends and we forget the lessons forged through weeks of pain. Deployments rekindle the mindset that we need others, but when things are smooth we drift from our brothers and sisters in uniform. Trouble hits and few of us have solid relationships to help us navigate through the difficulties. We are on our own, and what is worse we convince ourselves that we don’t need others. Alcohol, pornography, and illicit relationships are always only one small step away.

The military is not designed to operate this way and neither is the Body of Christ. By design, we are not isolated–we are part of His body (1 Corinthians 12). Our tendency to do things “all by ourselves” means we neglect strong and healthy relationships (Hebrews 10:24-25). Bad decisions and mistakes (sin) further complicate things and lead to a hardened heart. The solution is clear, fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 3:12-13).

What is fellowship anyway? The military uproots us. Friends and mentors are left behind or move on to another location. Forging new relationships takes too much time and energy. Our descent into isolation seems to happen all by itself. Maybe we find ourselves tired of starting over.

The problem with this way of thinking is that the battle rages on. Ignoring the battle only leads to defeat. Good soldiers suffer hardship together (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Do you have someone where you are right now who can suffer hardship with you? That’s what you need. There is something special and powerful about fellowship when it is face to face. It becomes more difficult to hide and more difficult to pretend all is smooth. This cannot be forced upon us like battle buddies at basic training or even like a church program. It’s a decision that needs to be made by each person to find someone who will be closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Pride and isolation never lead to beneficial results, and we often learn that the hard way.

Independence and the belief that we can handle things by ourselves stems from a deeper cause. There is a default position inside our hearts toward pride (Mark 7:14-23). The word pride is often confusing to many military members.  We are commanded to take pride in our uniform and work.  Pride is what keeps us doing our best.  But pride has a dark side when it comes to issues of the soul. Pride is the belief that we are the center of the universe. Of course we would never put it that way, but when we think about how everything revolves around us and our needs, we are being prideful. It is a “me-first” attitude.

A soldier from Task Force Raptor (3-124) launches a dummy grenade from the kneeling position. The task force polishes its basic soldier skills as part of its premobilization training at Camp Swift. Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon

Basic training tried to eradicate that thought from our heads. For years, leadership manuals have espoused the idea that leaders eat last. We begin as a young enlisted member or officer excited about all we can accomplish in the world. Expectations are high and we strive to meet them. We pour our hearts and souls into helping others, and loving every minute of it. But promotion in rank is one of those sneaky emails that can open up destructive habits. After a few assignments, we begin to take on more military responsibilities. In addition, our skills and expertise grow to the point that we tend to believe we are overly important. Work can’t get done when we are on leave! We think there are things that only we can do, or at least we can do better than others. The promotion has then become more about shining our light and not God’s light (Matthew 5:16).

Christians are called to be humble. Our Savior led by example in this regard (Philippians 2:3-8, Mark 10:45). Humility is essential to the Christian life and it a “back to basics” mentality. It is a decision to think about yourself less (not think less about yourself).

Pride and isolation never lead to beneficial results, and we often learn that the hard way. But the hard way never has the last word because we have new grace every day (Lamentations 3:22-23).  Grace is getting a new hard-drive-heart that has been rebuilt and ready for use. And grace reminds us of what it means to be useful in God’s kingdom—to know Christ, and make Him known. That is what discipleship is all about. Now is the day to put away pride and isolation and find relationship that will keep you on the right path. All it takes is a phone call, an email, or a conversation at church.  Will you do that today?

If you are dealing with this issue, you do not need to face the challenge alone. Jesus has conquered every challenge so you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming hope. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.

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