Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Strange Solitude

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35 ESV)


I never will forget the time one of my daughters looked at me as we sat around a meal, having a great time of fun conversation, and just blurted out the phrase... "Dad, we all know you are a highly functioning introvert."... fulfilling the proverb that many a truth are said in jest.

Even my habit of needing to write things out illustrate what I have always known but rarely considered- my withdrawal from all things and a fortress of solitude that lies deep within.

This solitude is both healthy and destructive and it is where God does great work, but also has had to do an even greater work to understand the dangers and hurts that can result.

I have debated how to flesh this out in a post... do I speak of the harm first? do I extol the virtue first? Do I volley it back and forth?

This topic could create a lot of misunderstanding.... much of human writing is a sort of self-justification... even leading with Mark 1:35 could indicate that I am proud of my powers to hide away and exist..but Jesus withdrew for all the right reasons and motives...and He used the moments to pray. I will confess right now- the solitude that Jesus lived in and the fortress I escape to are as different as night and day...though He is always working on that for me...and sometimes with me.

Here is one more introductory point of this issue- I actually lived much of my early years as an extrovert.... and some of this is being a first born son...but I was lead in plays, outspoken, a guy who 'hammed it up' in social circles from 5th to 12th grade.... but I now see parts of my true personality beginning to develop in my senior year and grew throughout college and solidified itself in my late 20's.


And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6 ESV)

So with this verse as a holding place... a hopeful promise.... let me start by confessing the problems of living an introverted existence.

UNINTENDED NEGATIVES OF MY FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE

STOICISM- Stoicism (little show of emotion) has its benefits. I have been called a rock in times of crisis, but it is mostly a suppression at best and an act at worst. One of the lowest moments of my life was having to tell various family members that my mom had passed away as they arrived at different times to the hospital - telling that story over and over and suffering the reaction together with aunts, brothers, and dad took months to recover from.

I had similar experiences in my 7 years as a Dean of Students and my role of  communicating consequences for school discipline. Though it never showed much on the outside- it was very painful.

Not sure why... no one taught me to be stoic. We didn't show a lot of emotions growing up... I grew up in a world where it was unmanly to cry... and though I rarely shed a tear in public, I am surprised how weepy I can become in private- I cry at movies a lot- even when they aren't sad.

And I am surprised by what brings tears and when they start... they ain't stopping.

Two quick stories of that... in 1996 we were 13-0 and got upset in the semi-finals on the road...I was hurting (like all losses) and one of my mentors came up with a big smile and beautiful words of encouragement- as he spoke great words, he patted me on my chest with a firm point of emphasis, and it was like turning on a tear faucet.....

Another time, I was speaking to a group of my football seniors and parents right before our end of the year banquet... I was speaking about being a lifelong competitor and how they inspired me that season... out of no where, emotions sprang up as I was making a statement about fighting a worthy battle and my voice quivered and the tears flowed.... and to be honest, it was awkward... to this day I think they must have thought "That was strange".

Another way a stoic persona helped me was as a QB on our football team. My calm demeanor in the heat of battle helped keep our offensive huddles poised and we performed well in pressure situations.

BUT IT COMES AT A COST......

Outwardly showing love has never been easy... and the coolness can seem machine like with those need more expression... mostly my wife and children, close friends... they know I love them... I hugged my girls and spent time with them...we loved each other, but I have wrestled most of my life about letting it flow easier.

It also has hurt me at times in positions of leadership. A calm demeanor cannot be beat in times of crisis...but followers need a certain amount of charisma.... and I followed a very charismatic leader when I took my first head coaching job, he was blessed with a magnetic presence and persona and a lot of our leaders today have a look and a presence that sends a lot of energy out.

I think a person like me will always need to surround myself with those types of people and work harder on the personal relationships needed to overcome the 'lack of aura'.

The good news is that I have really improved in both expressing love and finding/showing external energy.

STRANGE STRENGTH IN MY FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE

I just don't know if very people understand this next statement.... or explanation.

Loneliness is a desert of depression

[18] Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;” (Genesis 2:18 ESV)

The saddest songs that have ever been written are about loneliness....

So it must seem strange for me to write- I never feel alone... In fact, when I am by myself, I have myself as a companion.... and God's presence in usually there with me.

My inner man is palpable to me- I have actual discourse with him... when I read, he lends a voice, when I think- he leads the discussion... when I pray, I hear my inner man speaking.

And at times, it is a different voice- God's voice has an authority that is unmistakable- it is often tender, but is also at times harsh... even sarcastic.

I notice this a lot when I am fishing.... total peace and total internal deliberation.

Even as I write this... it seems more like a mental disorder than reality...LOL.

But that is who I am.... alone, but never lonely.

This is why it is even more important to push this aside and come out and visit with others. If I am not careful I give out a message that "I don't need you' which would be a lie.

I am deathly afraid of where I would be without my wife, my children, my family, and close friends.

Probably content, but woefully ineffective and anemic.

Regardless, I know there will be seasons of 'turtle days' where I withdraw and meditate on things.

SO WHY WRITE THIS?

This blog is always directed toward my children primarily. They spend little time looking at it- but there may be a day when these words mean more and intended to bless.

As they wrestle with extroverts and introverts... even in themselves... they need to know it is messy but glorious.

"God limits our knowledge for two reasons: to humble us and to make sure that we have dealings with our fellows"- John Calvin

There is a glory and reward for understanding ourselves and others. An extrovert has a place in God's purposes, but so do turtles. One is not superior to the other.

And I laugh because God often puts to different types in a marriage- and though at times hard, it is a beautiful harmony!

So here is another published but not promoted blog post to those I love.

It is a powerful promise God gives me....

He loves me- demonstrated by the cross- but also that He doesn't leave me wallowing in the muck of selfish solitude- He visits me everyday and works on me. He lets me withdraw in various moods and moments and then gently pushed me out to love others.... I show love for God BY loving others.

I just want it to be more visible......

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