Week two of my collaboration with the talented Ruth Bumgarner. Check out her thoughts on this week’s prompt isolation and nakedness here.
I believe there is a stigma surrounding the words isolation and nakedness. The ideas and images associated with them are generally cold and frightening.
And they should not be.
But they are for a vast majority of people, and they are because we have made them that way. Community is a great thing. An integral component of human life. A necessary one. But let’s not get confused here, because I think we slip into a comfortable switching of priorities often; who we are around others is what counts. What we do when others are near, can see or can hear counts. Somehow our life is actualized (or more fully felt) in accordance with our standing in a community of some sort.
But community and fellowship should be catalysts and inspirations, not the sole foundation of a person’s being. Thomas Merton said that no man is an island (wrote a whole book on it actually) and he was stressing the importance of self-discovery through communion and love with and for the other. And I do not mean to detract from any of that.
But even Thomas would agree that before we can love another, we must first love ourselves.
Alone. Isolated. Naked.
And here is where I want to point out the beauty in those words, and refute the fear and nervousness associated with them. Because alone is exactly how we came into this world, and it is how we will leave it. The two bookends of our existence is exactly the thing we are scared of. But we should not be. For those bookends also allude to our origin story, a story which we all share a common denominator.
The Common Denominator.
But what we do not share, in the most intimate sense, is our very Beings. Our Selves. Our Names. Our Power. There was nothing in the space you occupy now, and then God whispered your name. That idea is so powerful to me. God, the freaking Any Great and Mysterious Name I Humbly Bestow Upon Him Will Not Even Come Close To Describing His Awesomeness God, chose you. Alone. He did not choose you in a group, There are no package deals in the creation of our souls. There is simply God, and You. You, exactly how you are meant to be.
That being said, we are meant to thrive in community. Absolutely. But before any community or relationship you are a part of, you are you. Before I am a boyfriend, I am David. Before I am a husband, I am David. Before I am a friend, I am David.
Before I am a Christian, I am David.
And that is what makes our relationships and communities so powerful. The collection of unique souls in pursuance of a common goal, a common love, a common existence, creates the most suitable of canvas’s on which the human experience can create.
And I never said being separated from that would be comfortable. For many simply being separated from those they love is tolling enough. For many entering into isolation, being naked before God, is simply too powerful, needless to say a difficult state on which to focus.
But most of all these words and ideas, isolation and nakedness, are uncomfortable because they expose ourselves to ourselves. All of our shortcomings and faults laid bare before us, with no social folds or nuances to hide behind and postpone that very human emotion. Guilt.
But God knew that going in. He knew we would fail again and again,, and he still chose us. He did not choose to place angels here on earth, endlessly singing his praise. He did not choose to create robots, mindlessly following his each and every command.
He created you and me. Isolated and naked. Because he knew the depths of human inadequacy felt in our most isolated moments are conquerable by the naked aggression of hope and love we are capable of harnessing and creating.
And when fostered accurately, bringing those ideals and directions out of isolation and into community is where the real light of humanity shines.
A Light too bright to shine with anything else. A Light that overtakes and shines out of the darkness of this world.
A Light that, just like it’s countless, unique human contributors, shines Alone.