I heard Sting’s classic song “Message in a Bottle” on 94.7 driving into work recently and was struck by his brilliant metaphor for contemporary isolation and fragmentation. The castaway, alone and isolated on an island, throws a bottle out into the ocean hoping for rescue, but instead of a 747 coming to rescue him, or a passing cruiseliner that caught his note, he instead receives a hundred million responses from others who are likewise castaways alone and isolated on islands out at sea. The line that really struck me was “Woke up this morning, can’t believe what I saw, hundred million bottles washed up on the shore.” We reach out for connection and community thinking we're alone in feeling isolated and others out there must have the connection we long for: if only we could be drawn in. Instead we awake to the realization that most out there feel as lonely and isolated as we do. What's keeping us apart?
It was a real “Lost in Translation” moment, how we’re so often walking through cities filled with people yet emotionally feeling the disconnect of castaways on islands out at sea. When we reach out to find connection, hoping for rescue, we find instead the realization both comforting and disturbing all at the same time: that everyone else is in the same boat (no pun intended), similarly lost on islands out at sea. Sting takes on the classic "no man is an island" with the critique that we may not have a choice.
I love Sting’s brilliant and honest observation, “Seems I’m not alone at being alone, hundred million castaways longing for a home.” Its got me thankful for the family of Christ: that Christ is drawing us castaways out of our islands-at-sea, into a depth of communion (rich united life together) with the very life of God (filled with his Spirit, united to Christ, adopted into the Father’s family) and each other (the diverse body of Christ: across race, class, across history and around the globe) in the hope of God’s restored communion with creation (heaven come to earth in fulfillment of his kingdom). I'm grateful that the gospel is drawing us out of our islands of isolation into communion with God, humanity and creation. We’re clumsy and awkward trying to figure it out, and we experience it imperfectly now in anticipation of what’s coming, but we’re growing in knowing & being known by God together—a bunch of castaways drawn together into an awkward, clumsy, and beautiful family.