A strange thing happens when you are cut off from community for awhile: you start to see yourself, and your potential, more clearly.
Living away from a world that is constantly pressuring you to be one thing or another, where you're always feeling the social pressure of all the ways that you don't measure up, it frees you to listen to the voice of Christ as He reveals all of the things that He's created in you, as you get to just settle into being who you are, with feedback from no one but the Lord Himself.
You don't even get messed up and muddled in all of the ideas that you get about who you're supposed to be, the ideas that start to creep into your heart when you witness who others are. A few weeks ago, I talked about the encouragers among us and how all of us think we ought to be more like them, particularly once we are on the receiving end of their encouragement. We can spend our whole lives beating ourselves up over not being more like other persons, over not having the good qualities that we see in others.
But live outside of community for just a short while, and that impulse goes away. Live with just yourself for awhile, and you start to experience things differently.
This is what happened to me recently in a 40-day battle with Covid. Cut off from having to be anything but 'alive,' from all expectations of others and of myself except that I somehow find a way to beat this thing, I got to experience the joy of discovering all over again who God has made me to be. My thoughts, unfiltered, revealed His beautiful design. My choices got to lean into things that my insecurities would normally keep me from exploring. There was no one to impress, no one to satisfy, no one to prove myself to...and something beautiful just happened in that space. I'm telling you. Something tremendously beautiful.
It's something that happens without words. We have all these adjectives that we use in the world for the kind of persons we want to be - kind, gracious, generous, intelligent, courteous, helpful, whatever. The list goes on and on, whatever we - or our world - place value on. But living in those days, those days where God simply revealed my own heart, my own personality, my own gifting a little more each day, there aren't words for who I am. I simply am. I simply am as God created me to be.
There's a potential dark side to this, of course, and that is those moments when you discover what you are that you shouldn't be. When your dark side shows up. For a number of persons, I know, this kind of solitude could be potentially devastating, for they live a certain sort of life in the darkness when they know no one is watching. But maybe that was the gift of Covid - I was so focused on the one thing that I had left to do, so stripped bare of anything and everything that resembled a regular life, a normal life, that for awhile, I didn't have time to even think about who was or wasn't watching. I was so focused on just living that everything else just dropped away, even, strangely, the darkness.
But also, one of the things that I discovered, and maybe this is just me, but I know that it's not, is that my dark side comes primarily from being in community. My dark side comes from all the pressure I feel to be things that I honestly wasn't in isolation. You turn me loose with Jesus, and I become all of these beautiful things; you put me back into the world, and for some reason, I don't feel beautiful any more. The world does that to us. And then, I lose my beauty because I go off chasing all the things the world says are important or trying to fulfill all the expectations it has for me.
Yet, in the solitude, I am never more confident in the promise of Jesus and my ability to live it. Take heart, He says. I have overcome the world.
This, this whole idea of who I am when I'm not worried about the feedback, is something I'm thinking a lot about as the new year approaches. As we all start to think about who we are and who we want to become and how we want to live in the new season that God is giving us. For me, it's this. I want to be more of this. I want to be more of who I am when the only voice I hear is His.