Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

The Battle of a Marine that We All Face

Have you watched any of the reality survival shows on television recently?  While there are shows like The Amazing Race that I think I’d enjoy participating in, I can assure you of my insufficient ability to catch, kill and eat wild animals to survive on the more intense shows…(read: If it’s not at the Piggly Wiggly meat counter…it’s not on my menu that day). 

Well…I may not be able to survive participating in one of those shows myself, but it’s hard to look away when they’re on.  There is something primal about seeing someone fight for survival…even if our experience as a viewer is somewhat declawed by commercial breaks.

This week The Discovery Channel is launching a new extreme survival show called The Wheel where six people are dropped off into six different isolated locations across South America with deadly terrain. With each turn of the wheel, participants are quickly moved to the next location. Unbeknownst to them, the timing of each turn of the wheel mirrors the lunar calendar…with every phase of the moon, the wheel turns and sends each person to a new eco-zone.

In reading a local magazine article this week by Lisa Mitchell, I saw that one of the participants, Shon Joyner, was from the same Indianapolis suburb I currently live. 

Photo Cred: S. Joyner

Shon served as a U.S. Marine for six years including combat duty in Iraq and serving on George W. Bush’s presidential guard. 

While you would expect Joyner’s military training to have prepared him well for the circumstances ahead, you might be surprised to hear what the most challenging part of the experience was for him.  The hardest part of the experience, he said, was the isolation (there was no camera crew…participants video themselves on the journey). 

According to Shon: “Combat with the enemy versus combat with yourself in complete isolation are two totally different battles.  In combat, you have other Marines to go through the experience with.  With this you’re completely on your own.  The isolation is horrible.  Every day felt like five days.  Your entire concept of time changes.”

Joyner said the most surprising thing to him was how emotionally broken he became as days stretched on and his sense of isolation grew.

I’m talking about a Marine on a reality television show…but I might as well be talking about you and me.

We all know that life can be hard and throw major challenges our way.  But how much sweeter are the memories that we fought those battles with others by our side.

When a loved one passed away unexpectedly and we found ourselves surrounded by a community of friends and family that held each other up. 

When we were passed over for a promotion or lost that job.  How much more encouraging to have a group of friends to commiserate with over tea or at the pub.

When your heart was broken…by life and by others…there was the shoulder that you could cry on and held you through the night.

But what about the person on their own?

When you lose someone dear to you, but no one knows you well enough to even ask how you are feeling.

When again you didn’t get the job promotion you wanted and are feeling the hidden pressure from income that doesn’t meet your expenses…despite your neighbors thinking you are affluent.

When your heart is broken and you can’t find the courage to admit it to the few people in proximity to you that you don’t want to chase off with your emotional need.



These are kryptonite to life.

We were made to be in relationship with others.  We were made to be known.

In his recent book The Divine Dance, Richard Rohr engages the idea and God’s modeling of human connectedness.

“…the greatest dis-ease facing humanity right now is our profound and painful sense of disconnection. 

Disconnection from God, certainly, but also from ourselves (our bodies), from each other, and from our world.

Our sense of this fourfold isolation is plunging us as a culture – as a species – into increasingly destructive behavior.  While our world is not as doom and gloom as those who feed on a steady diet of cable TV and social media-driven “bad news” might conclude, it’s true that the sheer scope and complexity of our disconnection is staggering.”

Have you felt the pangs of isolation in your own life?

Observed the dis-ease of loneliness in someone around you?

It’s everywhere…And it sounds like the muffled aching of a heart.

It’s behind the perfect hair and brand-name clothing.

It’s behind the closed doors of your neighbors.

It’s behind the unanswered text message you’re waiting on.

And perhaps it’s even behind the face you looked at in the mirror this morning.

Don’t do life alone.  You weren’t made for it.

If you don’t believe me, believe the testimony of a Marine.

Isolation is a brutal disease…And it’s all around us.

Even a tiny ray of light can bring hope to someone isolated in darkness.

Don’t underestimate the value of a simple word you say to another.

A hand on the shoulder.

A hug.

An attention to the person next to you that communicates…I see you.

The Wheel premiers tomorrow night (yes…Friday the 13th) at 10pm on the Discovery Channel.  When you watch…you’ll be captured by the fight for survival.  But I hope that you’ll also remember the ways that so many around you are living in isolation.  And that, perhaps, you’ll consider reaching out and letting them know that they aren’t in this battle of life alone.


P.S.  If you are someone walking in isolation right now, please tell someone you trust.  You can also shoot me an email (jeff@fearlessquestions.org).  You don’t have to walk this alone.

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.

2 Replies

  1. Disconnectedness, while as painful as a broken heart is beautifully written as a strong metaphor of hope and a reason to connect. Jeff, whether here or there in your podcast, you are a voice of encouragement. Keep up the good work.

    1. Jeff Blackburn

      Thank you Nicole!