In 1992, a young man named Christopher McCandless started out on an escapade to “find himself.” He grew up in a privileged home and had every opportunity at his feet. Shortly after graduating from Emory University, he took his $26,000 check, donated it to charity, cut up his social security card and license, and headed west. After two years of hitchhiking, hanging out with strangers and moving from state to state, Chris decided to go on an Alaskan adventure “into the wild.” He felt determined not only figure out how to survive in the wilderness, but to do it by himself. People would only hinder his experience.
Upon arriving in Alaska, he found a stranded bus to camp in and tried to feed his appetite from the animals and plants around him. In the movie, Hollywood depicts Chris as arriving with complete awe and almost a sense of purpose; he is finally alone. After several weeks of attempting to survive solo, Chris reached a point where he realized that the happiness he was experiencing was only worthwhile if it was shared with other people. The drama unfolded as he packed his bags, headed back towards civilization, and was suddenly trapped by a river that was once only a stream. The weather had warmed since he last passed it, and there was no way to go across it. His only options were drowning or surviving alone in the abandoned bus, waiting for someone’s arrival.
The tragedy of it all was not Chris’s death that followed only weeks later; it was that he died alone. He had abandoned everyone he knew, everyone that loved him and wanted to help him. He ran scared from community and wanted to prove to himself that he didn’t need people. The movie depicts him writing some last words in one of his favorite books, “Happiness is only worthwhile shared.” He discovered for his need for people, but it was too late. Right before he died, he wrote on a piece of paper, “I have lived a long and happy life. God bless you all.”
Chris refused to be real with anyone, admitted no one, and isolated himself—it ultimately lead to his death. During the Holocaust, Hitler conducted terrible experiments on infants—giving them just enough food and milk to survive, but no nurture or coddling. If the baby cried, they would manage. Every infant died. Not because of physical needs, but because they had been abandoned.
The crazy reality is that no matter how much we try to deny it, we need people. We were created to live in community with each other. Without people, we can never survive, at least not the way God intended. Authenticity is challenging, gut wrenching, and even painful at times. For some reason unbeknownst to me, it does not come naturally. There have been many times in my life where I would much rather choose to be fake, ignore those that want what is best, and run towards those that will just let me be alone. Yet this is not what God intended, either.
Chris ran from home and towards those that would only offer the “wisdom” he wanted to hear. Funny… in my study of Saul, Jonathan, and David, I saw Saul run away from everyone and Jonathan run towards David. David was worthy of being trusted, Saul was not. Without help of those around him, Saul became a madman and ultimately strayed from his very purpose. Jonathan clung tight to his friend David, who ultimately became King and was one that truly pursued the heart of God.
Who do we run from? Are we dying to get out and away from everyone that knows us, loves us, and wants what is best? We desperately need the love of those around us. My prayer is that we would know Him—and in that, we would let others love us.