Solitude. I feel like I am in complete solitude. There are friends I can turn to and a city full of other people to be around, but I feel like all the times I really don’t want to be alone are the times no one is available. In the moment, it is depressing and lonely, but I’ve started praying about what it’s all for. Lord, are You doing this on purpose? How can I best use this time? What are You trying to reveal to me?
Growing up in the Bible Belt, knowledge of God was passed around like any other text book. You went to church because your family and friends did. You went on youth trips because it was fun and the boys were cute. You prayed before you ate and went to bed, and you would occasionally bow your head when you needed something. This wasn’t what we were taught by our pastors and youth leaders, but you tend to miss the message by playing tic-tac-toe in the pews; the blame is completely on us.
Before Christ pulled me back out of Laurenland, there were times I genuinely felt a strong relationship between Him and I; however, my life reflected none of the sort.
Being in California has opened my eyes to many things, but one thing that’s both inspiring and refreshing is that the believers here are stronger than the ones who have lived their entire lives going to church. Here, following Christ is a choice. You don’t go because your parents made you, and you don’t learn about the Bible because it’s forced. It is a personal decision each person has made. Some of the people I’ve met aren’t supported by their parents. Some have lost everything to follow the path Christ has given them. They are more in tune with what God has for them, and the strength of their faith far surpasses any other I’ve seen. Not a conversation with them goes by that doesn’t involve the Lord. I think back to all the times I spent with my friends growing up, and we didn’t talk like that with each other. Yes, we were ‘Christians’, but it was uncomfortable to bring it up in conversation. Instead of saying, “I feel like God has lead me here” or “Jesus has really made it clear that this is where I should be,” I would say, “Everything happens for a reason” or “I think it’s working itself out.” It was almost as if we were embarrassed to utter words concerning Someone we had apparently known all our lives. It makes me so sad to think of all the time I wasted and all the people I could have influenced if I had just stopped worrying what they would think of me if I said ‘GOD’. Why do we do that??
I’m halfway through a book called Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr. I would not recommend this book because his teachings are deceptive and molded to fit the New Age way of things. But he does, however, make a few points that at least got me thinking. He claims that we don’t allow ourselves to live past our shallow surface for fear of rejection and misperception. We are constantly creating rules and restraints for our relationships with others that are binding and unnecessary.
Those who rush to artificially manufacture their own identity often end up with hardened and overly defended edges. They are easily offended and are always ready to create a new identity when the current one lets them down. They might become racists or control freaks, people who are always afraid of the “other.” Often they become codependent or counter-dependent, in either case, only living in reaction to someone or something else. To them, negative identity is created quickly and feels sort of like life. Thus many people, even religious folks, settle for lives of “holier than thou” or lives consumed of hatred by their enemies. Being over and against is a lot easier than being in love.
This was me. I was stuck in a surface life and letting every opinion around me decide how to live. I shut people out and passed too many by because I was afraid of everyone else’s reaction. My first response to anyone calling me to truth, greatness, goodness, or morality was overwhelming anxiety. Instead of recognizing the beauty in pushing myself to love, I put up a wall and reacted in terror because I was ‘too afraid to go there.’ Rohr points out that at the edges of medieval maps were frequently penciled in the warning: “Here be dragons.” We confront these dragons when we reach the edge of our comfort zone. If we aren’t trained in how to overcome these fears, we will just continue to feed them.
In the Bible, prophets like John the Baptist would live for years in the solitude of the wilderness in order to escape conformation of exactly what Rohr is talking about. By secluding themselves, they were able to remain at the simple core of life without exposing themselves to whatever might harden their surface. That way, their foundation was strong enough that it wasn’t influenced by what closes all of us up. They could resist the ‘boundaries’ we tend create, therefore, keeping their sight and mind clean. They could see things just as they are without all the rules and regulations hindering their organic perception. They hadn’t been given a chance to form this ego-agenda we all have, so they could see things as they are.
Oh.. It hit me like a blow to the head. My solitude isn’t punishment; it’s a gift. In this busy, self-worshipping world, it is actually a gift to be alone. How can we hear the Word of God when everything else is screaming for our attention? Phones, TV, kids, spouses, music, movies, magazines, vacations, nightlife, friends, enemies, money, clothes, cars, homes, family, etc, etc, etc. Everything wants us to stop and pay attention. It’s nonstop, but we don’t even realize it. I sure didn’t until I came to LA and had nothing to keep my mind busy. Yes, I’m staying active and have things to get done, but I come home to nothing. I come home to my books and my Bible and my scripts and my thoughts on what I’m learning from the people in this whole new world I’ve found. I think about both believers and nonbelievers. I see myself in the people lost without Christ because I’ve been there. And I see hope in the believers here because I know that’s the direction I want to go in. I pray for daily reminders of what my life without Christ was like, but I also pray that my thirst and hunger for Jesus is never filled. I want to always desire Him. I hope that after I leave LA, I still find alone time, and I hope it still causes me pain. We need pain. I want to be poor in spirit because if I’m not, and if I find satisfaction in the things distracting me from my faith, then I’m failing. Lord, keep me humble. Keep me searching for more. Don’t let me pull the thorn from my side, for it’s a constant reminder that only You can fix me. Only You can heal me. Only You can comfort me. And Only You can give me joy in times of sorrow.
This is my wilderness.