But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
During communion at church last week, I began to pray. Before I could even say anything, this was what I heard:
Where are you?
Where are you?
Distant was the first word I thought of.
It’s not that I’m in a bad place or anything. Things are good. Busy, but good. Still loving my job. Adore my kiddos at work most of the time. Still content with my roommates and our house. Family stuff is fine. Anxiety has rough the last few days, but otherwise stable. (Took a nose-dive on the depression side of life a couple weeks ago but have recovered, thank you Jesus).
I’m doing okay. Life is good.
Yet I’ve become distant. From God, from friends, from everyone.
I get caught up in the busyness and the day-to-day to-dos of this busy season and I’ve just kind of let myself go.
Succumbing to sleep (because energy is lacking these days) and numbness because it is just easier than answering questions and digging in to what really matters.
I’ve not been taking care of myself or my faith by praying or journaling or reading (scripture or for fun). I use the guise that I don’t have time but I do. I play on my computer and watch netflix because after a long week of working, I just don’t have the energy to sit and read and listen. I just don’t want to be convicted or brought out of my comfortable numbness right now.
Lately I’ve pulled myself away from people– mainly because I don’t know what to say or how to say it. I have a lot going on in my head and don’t know how to articulate it without overdoing it.
Worrying about the future. Unpacking what I’m learning/doing in therapy. Overthinking everything. Dealing with anxiety and overwhelming fear.
So instead of unraveling all of that into the lap of the people I’m close with, I pull myself away. Choosing loneliness because it is easier than the alternative of letting people in too deep.
It’s a lot easier to look busy by watching Friends on an endless loop than it is to instigate and hold conversation and choose to not be lonely.
I’ve too been pulling away from God because I just don’t know what to say or do anymore. I’ve been so distracted by everything else in my life that I’ve let myself get away from both people and God.
It’s a lot easier for me to get far away from God when I can’t see him in the flesh. When I can’t talk to him while he sits across from me. It’s a lot easier to be distant when he is distant in the literal sense, you know?
But I don’t want to be distant.
Well… I do and I don’t, if I’m being honest. I want the benefits of being near without the work. I want to feel close to people and to God without actually being close to people and to God. That requires vulnerability and work and more than I want to give. It requires people actually asking me more than how are you? and small talk questions, and it requires me to actually say more than I’m fine or okay. It requires me to be the one to reach out and talk instead of waiting on people to come to me. At a conference I went to this weekend with a roommate, they talked about how you can’t wait for community to come to you– you have to pursue it. Dangit, how I want that to not be true. It’s much easier sitting around waiting on people to talk to me instead of me initiating the talking.
Nearness requires me to actually be near. To actually be close enough to be honest and willing to share and not hold things back. It requires people actually knowing me, not parts of me.
It’s easier to choose to be lonely instead of admitting I’m lonely and need to have conversation– both the simple small talk and the tough life talks. It’s easier to choose being distant and alone than to reach out and take the initiative to talk and share with the people I’m close to. It’s easier to let people in on the surface of my life and not actually know me.
It’s easier to choose the extra hour of sleep and keep my Bible closed and my prayers short, than be honest with a God I struggle to know and understand.
Last week and this week at church, we talked about God’s presence with us.
Last week we were in Exodus talking about God not going with Moses to the Promised land.
The Lord said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ 2 And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 3 Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”
continued in vs. 12–
One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
15 Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
Brandon talked to us about the intimacy of Moses with God– how He knew God so well and so closely he was able to intercede for all of Israel and convince God to go with them (even though they’d betrayed him continuously, and would continue to do so).
Moses didn’t want the blessings of God without God. He wanted God’s presence more than he wanted the blessings God had promised. Moses didn’t want the blessing if He wasn’t going with them.
Brandon then asked us: do we want to know God like Moses knew God?
I do. But I don’t want to work for it. I want the intimacy (which is a word that still freaks me out, btw) without the work it takes to get there.
Today we left Exodus and started Numbers. We talked about how the people began to doubt God’s promise and jumped ship from following Moses because they were afraid of the people that were living in the Promised Land. So they tried to find a leader to lead them back.
They didn’t just doubt the promise God have given them– the promise that the land was theirs, no matter what– they doubted His presence. He was with them in the form of the Tabernacle– it was carried at the helm of the group, symbolizing that the Lord’s presence was leading them to their promised land. Yet they still feared. They still doubted that they could get the land. So they gave into their fear and ran for the hills, and God reacted (letting them go but giving the promised land to their children instead! oops). They were afraid that his presence, his promise wasn’t enough.
Andrew said something this morning that gripped me, as an anxiety sufferer: fear grips us. fear seizes us. Fear changes our ability to see reality as it actually is.
It really does. Fear steers my life most days. It really does distort reality. My fear of intimacy and connection causes me to see people as uninterested or annoyed or uncaring about me. My fear of people knowing me makes me think that people don’t want to know me and how I’m really doing. My fear of being vulnerable about my life and my struggles makes me believe that they aren’t important and people don’t want to listen. My fear of people not wanting me keeps me from being real and honest, for fear that they’ll walk around. So I continue to keep my distance, continue to close myself off for fear of people really knowing me. I’m only as honest as I want to be.
My fears about God really knowing me keep me from being honest with Him, too.
I want to be near. I don’t want to be distant. But I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’m going to put the work in of being vulnerable and real and it not be reciprocated. I’m afraid I’m going to be vulnerable with the wrong person and they drop me at the slightest sight of my skeletons in the closet. I’m afraid that being honest and intimate with people isn’t worth the work it takes. I’m afraid if I’m near to God, He’s not listening or not going to care. Sometimes it feels like i’m talking to the ceiling instead of God, and I’m scared if I actually talk instead of just list my prayer requests that they’re just going into the air, useless.
I want to be near. As much as I don’t want to put in the work to be near, I know it’s necessary. But I’m scared if I put in that work, I’m going to fall short or fail. If I put in that work and no one listens, or no one cares, or people laugh when I tell them what’s going on with me? I don’t know if I can handle that.
So, to answer the question I asked myself during communion: I’m distant. And, I’m afraid of the costs of choosing to be near– and I’m afraid that those costs and risks outweigh my want to be near.
I long for nearness. I long for connection and closeness, for honesty and intimacy with friends and the Lord.
But I’m scared that if I reach out, no one will reach back. And I’ll be left more alone than I already feel I am.
You Revive Me: heard this song at a conference this weekend. Never heard it before. the words struck me.
I love Housefires (aka the originator/songwriters behind Good Good Father). This song is wonderful. (The actual song starts at about 1:25)
Reminded by darkness
or lost out at sea
Even in death You’re always with me
When I am fearful
I won’t be afraid
Spirit remind me
Your presence remains