May 19, 2021
“He who separates himself seeks his own desire. He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1)
Everyone likes some “space” at times. Jesus “withdrew to a lonely place” on occasion. But His separation was not to merely leave others. It was to go to Someone. To spend time with His Father. The withdrawal this Proverb speaks of is more about a selfish motivation.
God indicates that withdrawal from others is usually because someone “seeks his own desire.” In other words, it’s about them. They want to have what they want to have (quiet, comfort, lack of accountability, lack of interaction with others). This may not seem sinful, but any direction we take that is merely about us is always unwise.
There are multiple reasons why we separate. Sometimes it is forced upon us by someone deliberating choosing to leave us, such as in a marriage. This may be entirely beyond our control and not our desire, creating tremendous hurt. No one wants this in their life.
The Corona Virus in 2020 has forced an extremely toxic separation from family, friends, church, work, school. We will not know the emotional effects of this for years to come. The danger of this forced separation stemming from COVID is that we may slide into living and working apart without realizing its deadly effects.
More personally, all of us have been hurt in the past. When we are hurt, we form defense systems so it will not happen again. We can become angry so that if a potentially hurtful situation develops, we go on the offensive, making sure that others receive the blow, not us. We can become judgmental and critical. We can give in to a life of fear.
One of the most common responses to hurt is to develop patterns of withdrawal. To pull in. “I’ve been hurt in the past, so my way of dealing with that is to simply not engage with others.” To most, this is an almost unconscious response. They do not believe they’re doing this until someone lovingly helps them do a deep dive into their soul. They may have chosen this path for so long that it has formed patterns affecting all relationships. This takes time and the grace of God to overcome.
Some people have a personality or temperament that is naturally timid. There’s nothing wrong with this. But life can reinforce this in unhealthy ways. Perhaps even childhood circumstances, family dynamics, school relationships have helped deepen a life response that is unhealthy. That withdraws even when it’s not necessary. Just as a boisterous personality must be tempered and refined, a timid personality must be developed so it will not take us to unhealthy separation.
… with withdrawal is that we were designed to live with others. We may not realize it, but it is impossible to live healthy lives alone. The one who—consciously or unconsciously—chooses this path “quarrels against all sound wisdom.” It’s just not wise. It will work against the development of a spiritually and emotionally fruitful life.
We need the fellowship of others. Everyone is imbalanced. We need those who pull us out of our ditch and bring balance through interaction, counsel, friendship, communication. Most importantly, we need a strong vertical relationship. Often a withdrawer who has not developed healthy relational connections with others has difficulty connecting with God.
… is not to live in shame regarding one’s tendency to withdraw. We should realize we have, gradually or quickly in a season, moved away from others. We need to seek the counsel of a godly friend or spiritual counselor who will help us get to the root of this behavior.
It will take the grace of God and His promised help, and perhaps the outstretched hand of a friend, to help us come out of the cave of withdrawal. We should admit to God that, for whatever reason, we have chosen a path that is not healthy, and we need His help to step out of a self-absorbed life. We need to serve others.
Most importantly, we need to come to the “freedom of self-forgetfulness,” as Tim Keller describes. To go to the place where we are so absorbed with God and others that we gradually forget about ourselves.
Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, “I’m in this room with these people; does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?” Ture gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. (Tim Keller, “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness”)
If you find yourself wandering down the path alone, don’t go another day in isolation. Take a step to get some wise help from others.
Father, show me why I separate myself. Help me understand the dangers of this dark cave. Give me the courage to seek out some help and be willing to step into the discomfort of relationships to minister to others and not be merely concerned with myself. Help me find the path of wisdom in a life fully free with You and others.
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