I am not even sure where to start this post. This has the potential to be a really long read. I’ll do my best to keep it to the point. It’s just something that breaks my heart. And I’ve been there many times in my life. On an island. The island has many names and takes many shapes. And the way we get to the island takes various forms too. Oh, by the way…it’s my fault and your fault we are on our islands. It hurts, I know. But it’s the truth.
Let’s start with some fun facts. According to the great Google Machine, Greenland is the largest island at 836,300 square miles. The smallest island is called Just Enough Room Island (formerly called Hub Island) at 0.000118 square miles. It’s the island pictured at the start of this post. So little.. there’s a house and a tree. That’s it. Pretty fascinating to think that one can be so large and the other so small. But, they still have something in common, they are both islands.
So, what’s with the island reference? I’m not talking about a vacation getaway. Although some of you will think it’s the answer for what I’m talking about. No, the islands I’m referring to are burnout, exhaustion, depression, loneliness, separation, being overwhelmed or even underwhelmed with life, family, career, or friendships. When you get to this place, you are essentially stranded on an island. And you are the one that got yourself there.
Ok, in all transparency, I cannot take credit for the analogy of the island. I heard it at a conference when the speaker, someone that has my job at another mega-church, shared about this topic and he used this analogy. I just feel so strongly about it that I have to share his insight and put my own context with it in the hopes that it encourages you.
So, how did you get to this island? Well, that’s a question that only you can really answer. But, I have some ideas. You got in a situation where you were feeling some emotional distress. Maybe something happened that caused some pain.. maybe you let yourself take on too much and you lost sight of something primary.. Rather than confronting the situation or seeking counsel to resolve it, you kept it inside. You bottled it up. The more you did this, the worse it got. You started overthinking it. You began giving it context that it never had, but you don’t know that because you never dealt with it. As time went on, you separated from the thing or person or whatever, even if only emotionally or on principle. Now, you’re out in the deep blue sea of disconnection on the island. And yes, you put yourself there. Don’t try to blame the thing or the person or whatever it was that initiated it. It was your choice on how you approached it that led you where you are.
Here you are, all alone (in your mind anyway) on your island. It could be anger island, pity island, regret island, burnout island, bitterness island, loneliness island, or any number of other rather unpleasant places to visit. Also, taking a vacation to an island getaway is not the solution. Rather the opposite actually. What you need is to not go off and be by yourself. That’s how you got yourself here. No, you need to seek help. You need a lifeline, a lifesaver, a helping hand.
Please do not play the “I’m an introvert” card here. It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s not even a card from this deck. Yes, Jesus went to be alone at certain moments. But, there was always a purpose and reason. He didn’t do it because he felt socially awkward around people. The Bible is filled with scripture that talks about the importance of relationships and fellowship. So leave the Myers Briggs test results out of this.
You got yourself to the island, so you aren’t exactly the most reliable to get yourself off the island. No matter what the island is. What you need is someone, or a group of someones to help you build a raft or a bridge or to just bring the helicopter to life flight you off the island. That takes trust. Maybe a broken trust is what got you there. Maybe that’s the name of your island, Antitrust Isles. Sorry to be so blunt, but you have to work through it. Probably best if it’s not with the person that broke your trust though. Just sayin’.
Where’s my story in all this? It’s difficult for me to choose just one. There are so many to choose from. Maybe I’ll tell you about an island that many in my life of work set sail for frequently. It’s kind of got a duel name. It’s called Exhausted Badge of Honor Island. It has several beaches, all filled with broken glass of course. It kind of resembles the beaches of Florida after an MTV spring break special. For those of you too old or too young, just imagine any disaster movie of the last 5 or 10 years. It’s really not a lovely place at all. There are no trees for shade or shelter. There’s no source of fresh water. There’s no food. And no air conditioning. It also never rains and is never cloudy. And it’s on the equator all year round. But, for some reason, we visit often.
Media guys are some of the worst about owning and accepting a lifestyle that never rests. A pattern of behavior that we take on too much and try to please everyone. Then we get lost in the busyness and stuff and lose sight of what’s really important. It’s not the stuff, it’s the Kingdom and the people. But, we lose track and eventually get so exhausted. It becomes a badge of honor in our minds. Before long, it turns into resentment and bitterness. It turns into stress, unreasonable self imposed standards and demands. It has also turned into the end of a career. Sadly, I have also seen it turn into suicide. Like I said, it’s not a lovely island.
A few years ago, I was at a conference with my fellow cohorts. My brothers in arms. Other media directors from other mega-churches. I had been before. It was always a good learning experience and that was honestly usually it for me. Not this year. At some point during the week, a text string started. To be honest, we were counting the number of times the speaker of one session kept saying um. Not very righteous, I know. But that silly laughable moment has sparked a forest fire of a friendship between a handful of us that has continued to this day. And I couldn’t be more thankful for it.
We have a group text, a Marco Polo, our wives have the same. We have done zoom calls, shared emails. We aren’t just about work either. We have shared laughs and tears. And it has been the most encouraging thing for me. It has also kept me off the island. It has kept me from wanting to go to the island. It has helped me off the island very quickly on those days or weeks that just seem hell bent on sending me to the island. And I couldn’t do it without them.
It isn’t just a place that I go to fuss and complain and be needy either. Although, I’m sure I have my moments. I genuinely care about these guys and in my efforts to encourage them in their moments, it helps me see the truth of my experience, my situation so much more clearly. And it keeps me from thinking that the island journey is the response to whatever things I might be facing. Heck, sometimes seeing where they are helps me see I don’t have it all that bad. Just being honest. It makes me want to have a better attitude to help them, and because I don’t have any right to be as upset or frustrated or stressed as I have made up my mind to be.
So, what do you do? Well, it really depends on what your island is. Maybe you have a mental travel agent that books passage to lots of islands. Whatever it is, here’s my simple encouragement: get help. You got yourself there. You can’t be trusted to get yourself off the island. Maybe you need medical attention or counseling. Don’t be ashamed of that. Do what is necessary. Maybe you just need to reach out to someone. Someone to help you. Maybe you need to make amends with someone. Maybe you need to forgive or seek forgiveness. Whatever it is, I beg you to stop trying to go it alone and reach out for help. You often might be surprised at the hand that reaches back and firmly grips yours for the journey.