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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 26: Isolation)

Whereas Jesus often went away to be alone with God, I often go away simply to be alone. “Where’s the exit route?” is always in the back of my mind. I like to be the one to drive when going out with a group, for example, not because I think I’m the best driver—okay, there’s that too—but mainly so I can leave whenever I decide it’s time. Part of my escapist tendency stems from simple introvert fatigue, but it also results from having been helplessly stuck with people I didn’t enjoy in places I didn’t want to be.
In other words, I like control. And when I’m all by my lonesome, I get nearly total control over everything. Yum!
A pastor I once heard said that much of the Christian life consists in trying to keep oneself on the road between two ditches of error: Steer too far to one side and you fall into hedonism, the other Pharisaism; one direction leads toward arrogance, the other to unholy shame; too extreme this way and you consent to sin in the name of tolerance, the other extreme leads you to speak and behave in hateful ways that drive people away from Christ instead of leading them toward him.
In that light, being alone and/or being social are neither good nor bad things, unless taken to extremes. (I am extraordinarily talented at extreme-ing.) The main issue, as always, concerns my heart. Do I surround myself with people so I don’t have to face myself or my God? Or do I reject others because I refuse to see God’s image in them?
The second one, for me.
I focus far too much on the ways other people aren’t pleasurable to me, instead of on what God wants me to give to and take from others. Were I more concerned with God’s intentions for my relationships, I’d forgive immediately when someone gives me something I don’t want (like rejection or ridicule) or takes from me something I do want (my time or energy). Because I’d recognize that I and everything I have truly belong not to me, but to God.

* * *

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
– Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

* * *

God, forgive my hard-heartedness, and my reluctance to engage deeply with others. I like to call isolation “setting myself apart”, but it’s really nothing more than unforgiving self-interest. Teach me to be more free with myself and my time, to be who you want me to be to other people.

40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey is now available in print. $6.49 at

With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.

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