Monday, February 23, 2009

There's No Such Thing as Isolation

Reading Romans 14:7-9:

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself

If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord. Whether

We live or die we belong t the Lord. It was for this purpose that Christ

Died and rose to life again. – that he might be the Lord of the dead and the living.

William Barclay in his commentary on the Book of Romans1 states that no one lives in isolation. We live in the past by virtue that all we encounter we take a little bit of each and it is added to our soul.

We live in the present. Nothing we do only affects ourselves. You may have heard of the Butterfly Effect, which is associated with Chaos Theory, that refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter, delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a weather pattern half a world away.2 The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of a system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events. Now whether it’s cockamamie or not, it is a good illustration of how we impact others, and perhaps persons we have not even met. By virtue of our actions on a brother or sister – good or bad – it causes a reaction by making them happy or sad that is transferred unto others by their own actions. “We are all bound up in the bundle of life, and from that bundle we cannot escape” (Barclay). Former U.S. President Jimmy Cater once wrote (I paraphrase) that we are presented two choices in our moments with people. We can either smile at them or make them enemies for life. It is easier to smile at them and receive the rewards than it is to make them life-long enemies and pay the costs.3

We live in the future. “As we receive life, so we hand life on. We hand on to our children a heritage of physical life and spiritual character. We are not self-contained units; we are links in a chain” (Barclay). CBC News reports today4 that a “team of scientists found early child abuse changed the expression of a gene that is important for responding to stress.” The news story further reports 36 males were studied post-mortem, and included twelve individuals who had suffered severe childhood abuse. Their brain tissue was compared to 12 accident victims who had not been abused and 12 controls. The researchers concluded the men who were abused were programmed to be more vulnerable to overwhelming feelings of despair. Researcher, Louise Newman, a professor of perinatal and infant psychiatry at the University of Newcastle in Australia, she said, "This impacts directly on how the brain develops and the stress regulation mechanism. It becomes highly stressed so it's like setting the thermostat on high, setting up a system which regulates stress less efficiently.” The study identified the area of the victim’s brains that are impacted. Newman says this region , “…controls feelings, so they're more likely to be highly stressed, have difficulties with anger and emotions, and be prone to self-harm, anxiety, suicide and depression." Anybody who has lived with a person suffering from anger issues, anxiety or depression knows of the reality of transfer. Without intervention the cycle only continues.

Using this line of argument Barclay also claims that we cannot disentangle ourselves from Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in Christ or not, he is a living presence in our lives. All life is under his gaze. Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920).5, a Christian Reformed pastor and former Prime Minister of The Netherlands wrote that “Every square inch of the Universe belongs to Jesus Christ.” We are his slaves; we cannot escape him. Our existence is linked to him for the sacrifice he paid to save us from eternal damnation. Now, because of his brand on us he sees us in all that we do and he shall be our Advocate in our deathly hour.

In that time, Barclay adds, we shall see Jesus in his visible presence. Death is not the chasm that ends in obliteration; it is the gateway that leads to Christ.


1. Barclay, William. The Letter to the Romans. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002 (The Daily Study Bible Series).

2. Butterfly Effect. Wikipedia. Accessed February 24, 2009

3. Carter, Jimmy. Living Faith. New York : Times Books, 1996.

4. "Scars of child abuse reach down to genetic level, scientists find." [ {accessed February 24, 2009}]

5. Hexham, Irving. Christian Politics according to Abraham Kuyper. [First Published in CRUX, Vol. XIX, No. 1, March, 1983:2-7] Found at [ {accessed February 24, 2009}]



elegant graphics said...

The info from the CBC is interesting. I have often said my state of despair feels physical. I can change it by hiking into the mountains or any other form of strenuous exercise or being creative in art or photography.

Makes finding joy and having faith a struggle

Just a Prairie Boy said...

It is rather amazing how this kind of stress can have deep altering effects. I was traumatized as a baby when my mother and sister were killed in a car accident. I was present and a part of the event too. The chain of events created that day changed my life. While today I am happy and optimistic, with a strong faith, that was not always the case. while the details are more than I would like to share a counsellor once said after I related my story that most people who experienced close to what I have would either be dead, incarcerated or living on street in drug/alcohol induced stupor. Thankfully, my trauma didn't go so deep. However, I do not like to be stressed. Because of that have found work that is not stress-inducing. I do get my greatest relaxation the same way as you. Being in the mountains and photography give me great joy.

Despite the study quoted I do believe that while we are not responsible for what happened to us we do have a choice on what our future will look like. Beyond most physical limitations we can either be angry or bitter (and I have been there) or happy and optimistic. If I can be even the tip of a butterfly's wing that drive joy into the world I am going to do so.

Thank you for your comment. JAPB