Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Public Isolation

The older I get and the more introverted I become. Truth is, I think I've always been fairly introverted, but since I like people so much, I've been an introvert in disguise.

Maybe I'm making that all up and it's a bunch of foolishness, but nonetheless I have been taking note of this often lately.

A few things to note about me:

- If you ever see me and you think I see you but then I don't talk to you, don't be offended. I probably DID see you, but my lack of desire to speak to you is simply a result of my own insecurity. I often remember people that don't remember me and have had one too many awkward moments in which I've had to reintroduce myself to people.  I also assume right away that you probably don't want to talk to me (which I'm sure isn't true) so rather than creating an awkward moment in which you're forced to have a conversation with me, I'm probably just going to duck and turn the other way.

- I deliberately seek out places where I won't know people.  If I have things to do, I actually DON'T want to talk to you. I just get too easily distracted. So if I'm working on an essay, trying to catch up on my reading, etc., I'm probably avoiding any human interaction on purpose.

-If I see you on the train/bus and I'm wearing headphones, I'm probably ignoring you too. Not because I don't like you or don't want to talk to you, but because my time alone with my music in my commute is really precious to me and my prayer life, and I typically am not present in the moment during those times. If you do talk to me, I'll likely be a little out of the norm because I've just stepped out of a conversation with God to talk to you.

That leads me to my next point.  I've recently come to discover just how much I enjoy being publicly isolated. That is, when I'm out in public, surrounded by people - be it at a coffee shop, tea shop, library, book store, etc. - and I can slap on a pair of headphones, break out a computer, book, or notebook, and lose myself in working, reading, or writing. I really don't like doing these things at home. I never have. It's only now that I'm realizing why.  There something comforting in being surrounded by people but being in my own world - as though none of them are there.  I actually SEEK OUT coffee shops that are not empty, only to sit in them and talk to no one other than the servers - which are actually some of my favorite conversations anyway (I also really enjoy interacting with total strangers).

All that to say, I realize that if I'm not careful, these things can actually IMPEDE my relationship with the Lord and my missional mindset.  I want to ensure I'm not cutting off any necessary and beautiful conversations or interactions, and I also want to make sure I don't send off an "I'm too good to talk to you," message, because that's also not the case. It's just that as someone who is in SOCIAL work school, I'm interacting with people ALL DAY, and I need those special times to keep to myself and really seek the Lord. I pray they do not become SELF minded, but rather are looked at as times to refresh and regenerate for the interactions I DO have.

But seriously, if you've never isolated yourself in a public place, I HIGHLY recommend giving it a try.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Arise and Eat

For the last six weeks or so I've been in one of the lowest "funks" I've ever found myself in. There is not really good reason for it, other than dwelling on the things I DON'T have instead of recognizing the blessings I do.  The toughest part of the struggle is that I am genuinely seeking contentment, and earnestly praying that I'll dig myself out of this little self-pity hole I've dug myself into.  It's not working, and though God is providing lots of amazing revelations to me, I am thoroughly ready for him to get through with whatever remolding he's working on in my heart right now. The molding process hurts.

I thought when school started back and I no longer had so much downtime, I'd shift focus from self-pity to thriving at what I do best (being a great social worker and writing awesome papers).  Instead I've just had a hard to getting myself to focus long enough to even take part in the necessary work I have to do. I'm not myself - the sunshine and daisies girl who can find the happiness in EVERYTHING, and it's incredibly frustrating.  Perhaps the utter lack of actual sunshine in this city has a tremendous lot to do with it (I am SO over winter this year).

I've heard of identity crises, but how long do they last? Because I feel I've been caught in one for the majority of the last five years - and it's finally all culminating in a big ole hot mess.

For the last six months or so, I've been hearing one word from God on repeat: SIMPLIFY.  In all this "soul searching" and "finding myself" I've done since graduating college and moving to New York, I keep ADDING things in to my life.

I finally gained perspective a few years back and decided to stop planning my life around getting married - because that's something I have no control over no matter how hard I try, so I started living much more freely.  The result has been both a blessing and a curse, as I've filled my backpack with lots of beautiful experiences.  I've collected these experiences like trophies of my own achievement though, which is not what they should be, and I feel like God's been leading me to take some of those trophies down and re-inspect the shelf upon which they sit.


I recently passed up an opportunity to study abroad in South Africa this summer, because every time I prayed about it God kept throwing that word back at me: Simplify.  I feel like I often gathered these experiences without really asking him if it's what he wanted for me, and I've started to see how difficult the consequences of this can be.

So simplify I'm doing.

In the midst of this simplification, though, he's really been rocking my soul and tearing me down.  I know that he only tears us down to build us back up stronger and better though, so I'm holding faith in that.  In the meantime, I'm not myself, at all.  I'm just a big pile waiting to be rebuilt.

The amazing thing is, through all of it the JOY I've experienced in unnecessary suffering has far surpassed the pain. I've had numerous experiences of this amazing mixed-emotion crying, in which I'm both crying out in pain and yet praising and receiving a joy so unsurmountable. I guess I needed to really simplify in order to make room for him to be more fully in control of the things going on in my heart.

He's far from through from what I can tell, and while I know he's NEVER through molding us and shaping us, I'm ready for him to be finished building whatever phase he's building right now.  The mystery and uncertainty is killing me.

Instead of using this time to do what I WANT to do (sit on my couch in a ball and cry it all away until he's done), I'm trying to seek the opportunities that can be created from it.

In 1 Kings, theres this beautiful story in which Elijah finds himself discouraged, to the point in which he actually asks to die (I'm SO not there).  God see's Elijah discouraged, and sends an angel to him:

"And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. An behold, an angel touched him and said to him, 'Arise and eat.' And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water.  And he ate and drank and lay down again.  And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, 'arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.'  And he arose and at and drank, and went in the strenght of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God" - 1 Kings 19: 6-8

ARISE AND EAT. When he felt like just laying down and taking a break from life, God told him to go eat, and provided food for him.  It even took Elijah two tries to get it right, but he did, and God blessed that effort.

So that's where I am, I arise and eat, and it's not easy.  If God has taught me anything though, it's that it's OKAY to be sad. As someone who's so rarely sad, this is a hard concept for me. Jesus suffered, and cried, and begged to have his cup taken from him. He lived a life in which his friends constantly betrayed him and didn't treat him as they should.  It's OKAY to question when God will use this for his glory - so long as I don't lose faith that he will.

In the meantime, I arise and eat. I wake up each day searching for whatever food he has provided in whatever way it might manifest itself - through a cup of tea at a coffee shop it took me seven stops to find while I write (so many people working in cafe's today!), or through a morning breakfast date with a friend. It could be that epic run I had on Friday, or the time I spent with the kids after church yesterday   Right now, all of these things are an EFFORT. This is unfamiliar territory for me, but I'm running with it, knowing that he's somehow using it for his glory.

So I encourage you, when you're having a hard time - even if you can't pinpoint why (I'd say SPECIFICALLY when you can't pinpoint why), ARISE AND EAT.