I Wanna Be Deserted

4 Jan

Whether introvert or extravert, time spent alone to reflect on our own lives is vital, for without it we lose a sense of exactly who we are. In the incessant business of modern life—rushing to and from work, dropping kids off, catching trains and gasping to get to meetings—we often lack quality time to simply be, to solidify the boundaries of our selves and resist the city’s attempts to count us as simply part of the crowd.

Kester Brewin,
Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbour in a World of Fractures

I’ve been puzzled these past three weeks of holiday as I’ve withdrawn more than I ever have. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve had other times when I’ve withdrawn, but those seasons were darkened by depression and paralyzing fears of rejection.

This Christmas, I’ve withdrawn to find a place for my soul to rest.

The autumn months were full of pondering heavy concepts and also deep, uprooting work in my spirit—rest was elusive while friends, work, and various stimuli were plentiful. My current puzzlement comes from my long-held belief that I am, in fact, an extrovert. It’s true—I am energized and recharged when I spend time with people, whether it’s a low-key dinner party, a night out dancing, or just mingling for 20 minutes after church.

But I noticed that, while I might have enough energy when I’m getting my socializing needs met, my time alone (and when I say alone, I mean with God) is what anchors me. Brewin states it perfectly when he says this time of “simply being” actually solidifies our boundaries. When I spend too much time with people and rush from a class to an errand to work to a party, I start to feel floppy and amorphous.

One of the most difficult parts of my life here at Fuller is sharing a 2-bedroom apartment with three other women. I have no place where I am guaranteed uninterrupted time to be alone. I do care for each of my roommates, but an apartment to myself for three weeks was a true gift. I’m trying not to be scared as I think about the upcoming quarter and picture the walls of my life closing in on me again. Brewin’s words later in the chapter give me much hope, as he talks about Heidegger’s concept of lichtung, the clearing within the soul where we are granted passage to the other, and access to our own being. Brewin says:

Jesus spent time in the desert and returned, yet in Heidegger’s sense it is not that we come upon these ‘clearings’ at various times along our journey, rather that the clearing already exists within us and we need to become better aware of it. In other words, it is not necessary for us to spend days fasting under the fierce light of the desert sun; rather, we must carry that desert place, that differently lit place, within us and learn to pause periodically to centre our vision on it. It is only here, as Heidegger points out, that we will begin to be able to engage both with others, and with the core of ourselves.

This winter, perhaps I can carry a bit of the desert with me, and learn to retreat to it as I did during my Advent solitude. Then, in the midst of a crowded life I can slip through a door in the air and find myself in a windswept valley, where I will let my heart breathe in the open space, link fingers with my desert savior, and just be.

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