The Way of the Hermit — When Pursuits Become Idols

Made For More“The beauty is that loving relationship becomes both the means and the end of personal identity. It is both how we exist and the goal for which we exist.”
—Hannah Anderson in Made For More

I know the way of the hermit. It has surprised me to learn that to be a hermit, one need not live alone. I am a wife and a mother of two, and yet, I am also a hermit. I interact with people face to face or over the phone only when it is necessary. And sometimes not even then.

During the school week, we see the children off to school, my husband goes to work, and I am left to myself with six hours of unstructured time. During that time, I accomplish my Bible reading, hang out on Twitter, and find interesting articles to read on the Internet. Occasionally, I write. Sometimes I read an actual book. Often I get some work done around the house. I have also begun to get more exercise.

Reading Hannah Anderson’s Made For More, from which the quote above is taken (Kindle location 1090 of 2873), has challenged me to take some of my head knowledge and make it heart knowledge. I am experiencing heartburn in the process.

“One of the first things that you learn about being an image bearer is that none of us bear His Image alone. Our existence is one of union and communion, of shared stories and intersecting lives.” (ibid., loc. 125-6)

Yes, I agree—on an intellectual level. But the way I live demonstrates what I really believe in my heart. And the way I live is that I avoid full interpersonal communication.

“We need to recover a vision for the big picture. We need to be able to see the things that are at a distance. To understand that we are defined, not by our categories, but by being made in the image of God and that our ultimate identity is to reflect and represent Him on this earth.” (ibid., loc. 154)

God doesn’t keep himself locked away.

“…when you understand this, when His identity becomes the foundation for your identity, the details will finally make sense. …. [This book] is a call to understand that womanhood, and everything that comes with it, serves a greater purpose.” (ibid., loc. 160)

I once heard a pastor say, “People are like porcupines; either we get cold or we get poked.”


This past Saturday, I had written the above when The Squabbles resumed. The Squabbles have been present in our family for — well, I suppose for as long as we’ve been a family. We are human after all.

Or perhaps it would be better stated that because we are human we have disagreements and conflict within our home. But The Squabbles … The Squabbles are a level of discontent, disagreement, and bickering that has primarily centered on that which has lately become an idol in our home: The Use of the Computer. The Squabbles have been getting worse over the last several weeks. On Saturday, The Squabbles began once again.

Who’s turn was it? How much time had been used? By whom? Had the Rules of Usage been violated? Everyone was right. Everyone was wrong. My own personal shame is that I have happily allowed the children their Computer Usage Idol so that I could indulge my own.

I’ve been uneasy about that of late. I’ve begun to eloquently pray, something like this: “Help!!!”

Earlier in that morning, having caught up on my Twitter feed, I was setting down my mini-tablet to pick up and accomplish my Bible reading. A potential tweet struck my thoughts:

“All caught up on Twitter. Time for Bible reading.”

My conscience burned in shame. I realized it was true: my priorities were a mess. Having that morning had a witty interchange with @GlenScrivener regarding the passive-aggressive use of the Twitter “favorite” function, I tweeted this:

 Ellen Mandeville ‏@EllenMandeville
All caught up on twitter, time for Bible reading.
@glenscrivener I’m expecting a favorite.

The following conversation ensued:

Glen Scrivener@glenscrivener Apr 26
@EllenMandeville are you?

Ellen Mandeville@EllenMandeville Apr 26
@glenscrivener In need of prayer for messed up priorities? Yup.

Glen Scrivener@glenscrivener Apr 26
@EllenMandeville for that you get a favourite and a prayer.


“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b NIV)

Unbeknownst to me, God would begin to answer those prayers for reordered priorities that very afternoon.

I was typing The Lament of the Hermit with which this post began. The children began another episode of The Squabbles. Dad was woken up from a Saturday afternoon nap. Resolution was no where in sight. And so, having been pondering for weeks what has been toxic in our home and realizing that the worship of this idol was trashing our family, my husband, Todd, calmly unplugged all the cables from the computer, picked it up, and walked out the door onto the deck.

“Dad!” our son cried.

“DAD!” he yelled as Todd walked to the far side of the deck.

“DADDY!!!!!!” both children screamed in unison. And while the children screamed, “NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!” . . .

Todd calmly hucked the computer over the deck railing and out onto the lawn.

**whistling sound of falling object**

Gutted, one child fell to the floor.

The screaming of both lost all words and achieved new decibel levels.

My eyebrows rose as my jaw slackened.


We had been allowing the computer to trash our family, so it has become trash. The Internet is currently turned off at home.


It is most unpleasant to face my own inadequacies and bad choices. Hannah Anderson’s words quoted at the beginning of this post brought me to a halt in reading Made For More.

“The beauty is that loving relationship becomes both the means and the end of personal identity. It is both how we exist and the goal for which we exist.” (Made For More, loc. 1090)

Anderson is speaking of a loving, dependent relationship with God and loving interdependent relationships with people. These words made complete sense to me, and I knew that my life was the near antithesis of them. Not the antithesis of purposely poisoning relationships, rather, the antithesis of apathy. I have been allowing my primary relationships to atrophy while I pursue my twin idols of Witty Words and Interesting Information. On the twin altars of these idols have I been sacrificing my primary relationships.

Particular incidences of my behavior on Twitter and the Internet have not been wrong. What is wrong is the aggregate amount of time I have devoted there.

No more. Having the Internet turned off at home has made me face the fact that I have been slowly destroying my familial bonds through neglect. Such behavior from me is unacceptable. No more.

from Made For More:

To discover what you love, what drives you and what ultimately gives you your sense of identity, you need to probe past superficial answers. You must ask yourself both what do I do and why do I do it? You must ask yourself,

  • What do I spend my time doing?
  • What do I think about most?
  • What do I talk about most?
  • What do I fight to protect?
  • What can make me angry?
  • What will I sin to achieve?

… you will most likely discover that you don’t love what or how God loves. You will most likely discover that you don’t reflect His character the way you should. You will most likely discover that you don’t image Him. And yet, in order to truly be yourself, you must. You must love what and how He loves. (loc. 1005 – 1014)


… in order to restore us, in order to make us the fully faceted people we were meant to be, Christ must change what and how we love. (loc. 1020)

This discussion of displaying God’s image through what and how I love, was what began to convict me of the sinful way I’ve been utilizing the time given me. I began to pray for Jesus to change what and how I love. The process has begun, and I know it will continue.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6 NIV)