You've been stuck at home with yourself now for awhile, and it may be starting to dawn on you that the problems you've had with others over the years may actually be problems you've had with yourself.
In isolation, we have all the time in the world, it seems. And with an uncertain future looming ahead of us, most of us are spending our time looking backward rather than forward. (There's something to be said for living in the present, but that's a pretty big ask, it seems.) We're going back over all the things that never worked out, all the choices we made, all the ones we didn't make. We're trying to figure out where we went wrong, what we did right, what we could have done better, and whether all the anger and bitterness that we harbor over something is really worth it or not. I heard someone say the other day that she was starting to miss persons she didn't think she even liked all that much. Maybe you can relate.
The longer we spend by ourselves, the more we will come in contact with all those little things we've become that we never wanted to be. The more time we have to think, the more we will think about all the mistakes that we've made. The longer we have to go without hearing from others, the more loudly we will hear our own critical voices. We are a nation coming face-to-face with our own insecurities. It can be overwhelming.
The natural reaction, for most of us, is to feel an urgent need for change. We start thinking of all the things we want to do differently. We start planning how to be better human beings. In small ways, we even start putting some of those thoughts into actions. We start trying to become more of who we want to be. And that's great.
But it will never work.
I don't say that at all to discourage you. Rather, I say it to help you prevent a greater devastation later. Let me explain.
We're all living right now in a way that we were never meant to live - in isolation. Remember in the beginning when God said it wasn't good for man to be alone? It still isn't. We are social beings, and we are formed - in part, and perhaps in a larger part than we like to admit - by the relationships that we have, by the connections that we make, and by the constant feedback loop we live in by living with one another.
When we live in community, we continually run up against new things. We encounter individuals who think differently than we do and challenge us to think more thoughtfully. We stumble upon obstacles we never could have imagined, often that we don't want to deal with, but now, we have to. This pushes us to innovate and to come up with something new. We come up against competing interests, conflicting schedules, differences of opinion, and constantly moving pieces, and all of this requires us to reconsider at every moment who we are, who we want to be, how we want to live.
In isolation, you don't get any of that. There's no one pushing you, no one challenging you. There are extremely limited opportunities to put anything new into practice. You have all the time in the world to think about it, but almost no time at all to actually live it. And when we all get back to actually living with one another, it seems like we run out of time to think about it. Community doesn't afford us the time to be introspective the way that isolation does. We don't think as much about who we want to be when we're actually expected to be someone. When your neighbors are waiting on you to act, you often discover that you're still not who you want to be, no matter how long you've thought about it; you are who you are.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. It doesn't mean we shouldn't be prayerful about changing our own hearts. It doesn't mean we can't take this time to understand and to challenge ourselves to be better versions of who God created us to be. But we need to have realistic expectations about what we can accomplish in isolation and what we can't.
When all this is over and you go back to your community, if you find that you are who you are and not all the grand dreams that you had for yourself in isolation, that's okay. You can use these days to set your heart in motion, to build new structures around yourself, to start thinking in new ways, but you won't start living in new ways until you are actually living again. The way you were created to live. In community.
And once you get back into community, these changes you want to make will take time. That's just the way it is.
We're all coming face-to-face with ourselves in new ways right now. For some of us, that's harder than for others. Some of us are prone to be eaten alive by our insecurities; others are just now discovering how delicious we are to our own ravenous souls. But you never are who you are alone, and you will never be who you want to be on your own. So whatever you're coming to learn about yourself, take it with grace. Let it inform you. Let it draw you closer to the heart of the God who made you. Let it shape your prayer life. Let it inspire you to a future where you're growing, day by day, into more of who He's made you to be. But don't beat yourself up over it and don't think you're going to walk out your front door in a few weeks a magically different person.
You are who you are, but you are shaped by the relationships you have. You don't exist in a vacuum; you live in a community. And you need that community to help you live, to help you become all the things you're discovering you want to be. Man was simply not meant to be alone.
He still isn't.
We are better, every one of us, together.