Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Closer Than They Appear

It's an interesting paradox...the way(s) some life events leave you very much in need of human companionship, compassion, and understanding yet also have a way of leaving you desirous of no such thing. You just want to be left alone...well...at least I do. 

Though I'm typically friendly and open when I encounter new people, my overall nature is extraordinarily introverted, so high levels of tension, stress, anxiety, or grief will drive me quickly inward. You will never see me at things like divorce care, grief share, 12 steps, life skills—nothing that involves putting my "stuff" or my inner life up for group conversation. Yeesh! Makes me bristle just thinking about it!

But when I think about my social circles of neighbors, co-workers, and even close friends then I can see the ways in which my tendency to withdraw—though it has some valuable benefits found 
only in the stillness of solitude—has a way of distorting how I feel and think...how I see not only my circumstances, but the people around me. When solitude slips into a propensity toward isolation, everyone and everything looks different to me...dangerous, intrusive, and untrustworthy. Distant.

It's a slow fade from solitude to isolation, but (for me) it almost always begins with a tendency toward negativity and ascribing questionable motives to even the people closest to me...perhaps especially the people closest to me. For example, if they are enthusiastic about something, then I am apathetic at best, and all out discouraging at worst. "Why do you want to go to that? You're not gonna like it." "Don't invite ____ _______. He/she is too _____ and then we'll have to _______." In sum, I turn even the simplest things into a burden and a criticism.

Of course, I don't realize I'm doing it at first, but by the time I do the darkness has settled in and I no longer care or have strength to combat it. In due time, everything is distorted, and I have all but completely lost not only my redeeming outlook on life and my interest in others, but also my hope and my joy in living. I have no expectations for anything other than a dark life of strife, sorrow, and betrayal in a world marked by sin. It's not pretty...unless you count pretty negative.

Plenty of people come to such a place in the midst of trying times, but as a woman of faith with a mission and a ministry, God keeps it impressed upon my heart that I have a responsibility to dig my way out and get back on the path of redemption. Sadly, that doesn't always mean I come quickly or quietly. Surrendering to God means vulnerability all over the place, and who can stomach that when they're already in a dark place? 

So I have learned how to let my sin and darkness fly under radar—saying and doing just enough of the right things to keep from arousing too much suspicion. But eventually even that breaks down. The "Enter At Your Own Risk" sign begins to flash above my head.

You can only imagine how these behaviors begin to inbreed...and the mutant products of conception they yield. My relationships with self, others, and God all become tenuous. Some ultimately grow troubled, and it is my fault. I'm ashamed to admit that everyone suffers the consequences of my isolation whether I realize it or not. And ultimately, if it gets bad enough, I don't really care.

I make this confession knowing full well that it exposes a darker side of myself—one that isn't very attractive—but I share it knowing with certainty that many other people struggle similarly. And anyway,at the end of the day, this pattern replicates the trouble that came with the first human sin...a belief in the lies that told to us in our darkness.

The best wisdom that was ever shared with me was four simple words: Don't believe the lies. These are the lies that erupt like weeds from the first moment I begin to converse with the darkness and discount the Truth. From that moment on, I begin buying stock in lies—creating options to purchase a full blown campground of lies where I put up my tent and 1 Corinthians 10:13 is left at the curb like trash.

1 Corinthians 10:13

New King James Version (NKJV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The way out is always in the Word, in confession, and in repentance. The lies cannot stand in the light of the Truth found in Scripture. The Truth has much power in its confession/expression/profession, but most importantly in its movement in the opposite direction of the lies...repentance. A half turn will never cut it. What's required is a full sprint away from the darkness—a sprint where we are shouting the Truth the whole way, crying out to the Savior for rescue. He will always come.

When we flee from what is evil and cling to what is good we begin to see God's love, and the people and circumstances He brings into our lives, as much closer, safer, and truer than we see them when we looking at them through the side view mirrors. We use the mirrors to avoid collisions with people and feelings that want to know us. But these are also collisions with love and grace...truth and peace...hope and joy, so...don't believe the lies.

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