It seems to me that this is a choice I face almost every minute of every day. Choose to isolate or choose to engage?
The Ice Queen in me must choose isolation because she can’t trust anyone. Someone could be trying to take control of her precious kingdom. The risk is too great because if someone got to know her, they would see that she’s not as confident or as perfect as she seems. She might have to admit that she was wrong and that is death to the Queen. She would rather live alone on her pedestal than down on the streets with other people.
To isolate is to escape. It is self-indulgent and self-focused and the end result is death. Part of the reason I choose isolation is because it allows me to hide or ignore my sin. If I don’t have to be in relationship, there is no one to point out my faults, no one to rub me the wrong way…there is no one. Isoalation is loneliness and shame. The easiest thing about isolation is that there is absolutely no risk involved. I can’t hurt anyone if I don’t talk to anyone. I am completely safe, completely unknown.
The Princess in me however is free to choose to be known. If people find out who she really is and they don’t like her, she is safe because she is loved by the Father who thinks the world of her. And that is all that matters. She is free to love and serve other people because doing so does not diminish her value or her worth, which come from the Father. To defer to someone else does not diminish her power. In fact, it makes her pleasing to the Father. The amazing thing is that even though the Princess doesn’t hide her shortcomings and failures, people are attracted to her even more, and the Father still loves her.
To me the opposite of isolation is intimacy. Intimacy with my husband, my friends, with God. It’s being engaged and present with my children. I wish I could tell you that intimacy was always happy and easy and completely blissful. I wish I could tell you if feels good all the time and always leads to good things. However the truth is that intimacy is extremely difficult. Intimacy requires that I die to myself and my self-indulgence and choose to serve or love someone else. It’s the kind of love that requires laying down your life for a friend. True intimacy requires confession and repentance and walking in the light of the truth. Every time I choose intimacy, I choose to be vulnerable. I choose to open myself up to pain and hurt. I risk complete and utter failure and rejection when I let you see into me. Because we are all broken, I hurt you and you hurt me simply because we choose to engage instead of choosing to disengage.
However what I can tell you is that living in intimacy with others and with God is truly fulfilling. We’ve had it both ways in our marriage. There was a time when I couldn’t share how I was feeling because of how it would make him feel. I couldn’t be honest because of what he would do if I were. But today I love being known and feeling understood. We talk about everything, even if it could upset the other person. God has been so good to me to give me a husband and friend who are “Jesus with skin on” to me. Yes, I have been hurt, but God is the healer of wounds. I can tell you that knowing you are loved and accepted as you are brings freedom and life.
So if I can see and testify to the value of intimacy, why do I choose isolation? It’s easier; it’s more comfortable; and it just feels good to focus on myself every now and then. The question I ask myself is how do I isolate? I play Words with Friends. But it says “with friends” so I’m not really isolating, right? However when I go outside to play bubbles with my kids and take my iPhone so I can play my game, I’m choosing to isolate rather than engage. When Andrew and I spend an hour watching TV and all we say is “your turn,” we are isolating. I also work and stay busy. Hope Renee asked me to play puzzles with her this afternoon, but five minutes later I was cleaning out all the stuff from under her bed. So much for playing together.
When I don’t call a friend when I need something I know they would be happy to provide, I choose isolation. When I don’t repent of the ways that I hurt my friend or tell her when she hurts me, I choose isolation. When I tell everyone that everything is fine and that we’re doing okay when I’m dying inside, I choose isolation.
Intimacy is terrifying, but the problem is that you will never live the way God meant you to live if you don’t step out and take the risk. Let God in and let him know all the parts of you. I know he loves all the parts of you and he’s waiting to be known by you. Let the people around you in. I can’t promise you success at every turn, but if you keep practicing it will get better. So often we think our husbands or friends would laugh or reject us if we told them what we really felt or thought. Just this week I had a friend come back to me and tell me that it worked. She shared with her husband what she was feeling and thinking. She even told him that she was having a hard time letting go of her expectations of him. Amazingly he didn’t laugh or reject her. He listened, and he got it! She learned that she didn’t have to spell out for him exactly what he ought to do. She just shared how she was feeling. How simple, how free, how utterly vulnerable! All that to say, it’s worth the risk…I dare you to try.
So what are you feeling? Here are seven words from Chip Dodd to help get you started. ANGER, SAD, HURT, LONELY, SHAME, GUILT, GLAD