I’m alone. Again.
Don’t let my natural circumstances fool you. Don’t feel sorry for me. It took me a while to catch on, but I could be with you, right this very minute, and be completely alone.
I used to think it was about my husband’s schedule: second shift leaves me alone a lot in the evenings. While darkness settles around the house, the kids are tucked in—and things get reaalllly quiet. Sometimes I can’t bear it and I fill the silence with whatever handful of Netflix shows that don’t completely depress my heart (usually something like Cake Boss or Top Chef—yes, I have a food theme.)
But I began realizing that I was as alone when Nick was home as I was when he was gone. I was still feeling the black hole of isolation, no matter where I was. This is not to be confused with loneliness. For a while I thought I was lonely. For many people, this could have been a very unhealthy season, or even dangerous. But for me, I see now the hand of The Lord. He makes all things work together for my good. In this place, I was being raised up.
But at the time, I could not see this. I saw only misery and was consumed within myself.
I began to realize that no amount of company seemed to help. Nope, it was clear. This had nothing to do with other people.
Somehow the big black hole had gotten inside of me.
I felt like I was gagging.
For a while, the Lord permitted isolation to run rampant within me. He let me fully experience its haunting, loitering fingers. I know what it is to look around a room of people you love and know that you are not the priority. He let me feel the burn of blending in, and led me into scenarios that turned my stomach to be so blurred among humanity. I know the nauseating, choking cold fog that settles on the mind. I know how heavy it is, almost to the point that your physical posture changes beneath its weight. There were constant reminders that I was merely one face among the clamoring glitterati. Oh, how it burned.
I know how pride speaks to the isolated heart, convincing it to play tough or to soldier on, not to need, not to cry out; conversely others hear self-pity, in which they run, believing themselves victimized. I have heard the seducing invitation of cheap fills; oh they have called me many times in my weakest moments. Sometimes I gave in. In all these, I was never alone—-but was allowed to feel as though I was.
I let isolation convince me that everything I once saw as a child—-the evenings I spent talking to a bathroom mirror or the visions of airports-—were foolish; over and over it chanted that such things were for greater people than I. I looked for every possible unspoken, even coincidental, cue that I should shut down, back off, autocorrect or change. I constantly awaited the reminder that I was out of place or overreaching, while simultaneously disregarding the voice burning just beneath the surface that would have set me apart.
Being isolated to an unbalanced presence of your own voice can result in a warped perception of the world, starting first by poisoning what you believe about your purpose and value. Being isolated tempts you to believe that your symptoms are the social consequence of your former crimes, not the result of your current mediocrity–and certainly never once could you consider it the honorable gift of preparation.
Being isolated is the gift of training for one who is called. It is one of the only accurate benchmarks by which to identify the onset of leadership. If approached willingly, by a surrendered heart, isolation forces your heart into the process that can have only one reward: HIM.
You feel the isolation because your spirit no longer willingly consents to dwell in the shallow waters; it swims out and low, responding to the destined, whispering invitation of the deep. A vast majority of your relationships and connections cannot meet you in that place. As you plunge, isolation is the signal that your spirit has recognized a brand new capacity and is bewildered. The depths are reserved for Him; He and His closest ones are the only beings who inhabit these adventuresome, mysterious trenches.
Isolation is a necessary proving ground, that He become an ever-increasing Presence upon you, such that many who long for His depths are drawn to you in the aroma. You notice there are some you are constantly drawn to, just to be with, not even necessarily to speak. They carry His scent—-the sweat of His vision, the fragrance of a life lived as worship, the breath of His breath, even the blood of His struggle–and from somewhere within you, you are drawn. Such becomes true of you as well, as your entire being is re-established, not in the sandy footers of flesh and blood, but upon the Bedrock of Spirit.
Isolation is the firebrand mark upon the hungry spirit who will not accept counterfeits or experience alone. It is the vacuum that results in one who no longer gets swept away by a single revelation or an accurate prophetic word. No longer is a powerful worship service remotely enough. Quotes from famous ministers don’t begin to touch the void. Additionally insufficient are the opinions and criticisms of those who might in the past have had unqualified influence to alter you from course, calling upon fleshly motives to derail spiritual results. You must become fully consumed by the focused appetite for one abiding Presence: HIS.
Anyone who would carry the weight on his Father on the earth must become increasingly immune to both the praise and contempt of those who make their home in the shallows, while never once weakening in love for them or surrendering to judgment of them. Isolation conditions your heart to crave and counsel much more selectively, knowing the voice of Your Prize when you hear it. Within the fire of isolation, you will become ready. Isolation is the wilderness the Spirit called Jesus into, a place to be embraced—and then, in time, departed—for a higher place: Calling.
I started by saying I am alone again tonight. I am, naturally. But not spiritually. Today is the first day in months that I was ready to notice the difference.
In every place, every single one, if you are looking, you will see Him. If you are there, so is He. You are not simply a plaything of your enemy, not forgotten, not miserable for misery’s sake, not broken upon the evil of this world. Have you so easily forgotten what He calls you–no longer a slave, but a son and heir (Gal 4)? Look deeper. I told you it took me a while. But here He is–loyal, faithful, answering the utmost cry of my heart: that I have all of Him.
Sons! Rise Up! May you who are called be ushered into the isolation, the hallmark of His beautiful confirmation of your importance, your value, and your readiness to go deeper. Even in the darkest moments, may you never surrender or run away, and may you adhere by sheer persistence to your faith that His grace is sufficient. May you trust Him to know Your name. May the preparation of isolation be laid before you as a gift, and may you accept it; may you become so familiar with Him that counterfeits are startlingly insufficient. May there be no price of the depths of Him that you are unwilling to pay. May you fully trust Him to be faithful in your completion. (Phil 1)
May you resist the weakness of a prosperity gospel that suggests that all difficulty is of your enemy–there is not a single mature man among us who became so by ease and privilege. Every son will find his greatest treasures beneath the rubble of his death. Pick up your cross and carry it.
…So that sons are no longer children tossed around by the waves; may you be mature, perfect and complete, not lacking anything! (Eph 4, James 1)