Caution: Roads Slippery When AloneFound in: Destiny in Bloom
“Table for one, please.”
“Yes, just one. No, no–leave that other chair there.”
“What? No, there’s nobody else coming.”
Even with my eyelids shut I know this place all too well. Before me lies a beaten, narrow path of solitude, worn with my own footprints anxiously searching for the green grass beyond heartache and sorrow. When I open my eyes, I’m sitting cross-legged and barefoot on my bedroom floor, snotty-nosed and surrounded by piles of crumpled and tear-stained pages bearing the tales of dreams crushed and hopes deferred.
As a young woman, I am still clumsily navigating through this often treacherous terrain of singleness, carefully balancing on an edge that divides happiness from loneliness and despair. After a few scraped knees and calloused hands, I have learned to avoid some of the dangerous spots–and those, of course, come with their own stories and scars. Following a terrible heartache in my early twenties, I set out on a trek with fierce determination to fulfill my dreams on my own terms. I ended up in this dreadful place called “isolation”; a place many of you may have visited with your own broken dreams in tote.
Wandering alone, I stepped right into the enemy’s trap and didn’t even know it.
Nevermind that God had given me a compass; it only pointed one direction anyway: up. He told me to follow Him. That was too hard.
Nevermind that I have the worst sense of direction … ever. I needed a Guide. But I was too stubborn and proud to stop and ask for directions.
Nevermind that I know He has called me to trust in, rely on, and hope in Him–I’ll find my own way. And I’ll get lost.
Isolation is such a miserable, lonely (and yet somehow strangely inviting) destination. Many people find themselves there when trying to preserve what’s left of a wounded heart, as if to isolate oneself from everyone is safer than any degree of relational vulnerability:
“I’ll never love again!”
“Since he hurt me I’m shutting myself off from everybody to keep from being hurt again!”
“That’s the last time I’ll ever let my guard down again! From now on these walls stay up and they’ll be guarded fiercely!”
Sound familiar? Have you ever pushed people away or cut them off entirely when coping with a broken heart, crushed dreams, or deferred hopes? Ever felt like it was safer to separate yourself from true community than to open up and let people see the “real” you?
Banning Liebscher recently said in a teaching, “The enemy wants to isolate us so he can bring discouragement, deception, and stupid choices.” In that season, I encountered just that. Met with the typical “you’re not good enough,” “he never loved you,”–oh, and the classic, “He chose HER over you?” I became like putty in the hands of the enemy. For months it was like I wore a hot pink name-tag that read, “Abandoned and Rejected” and I totally owned it. Allowing virtually no one to weigh in those lies against the Truth, I received every lie as truth. And I became it. I lived within that realm of deception, believing I would never be good enough, I would never be worth loving, and there would always be someone else that a man would choose instead of me.
In isolation, lies become magnified. It’s so easy for the enemy to entrap you with deception when the only one guarding you is…you. I didn’t care about myself because I believed no one else cared either. As a result, many stupid choices were soon to follow. I became reckless and put myself in dangerous situations. The kicker was, well, literally a kicker: I was mugged and beaten by two young thugs in the worst area of downtown Dallas. Why was I in the worst part of Dallas? Because I was hanging out at an event with some friends–-friends who were too busy to notice I was standing outside and entirely freaked out while they were in the back room doing drugs. Many of them fled when the cops came to help me…and there I was all over again-–alone.
I felt like David in Psalm 143:3-6 when he said, “The enemy hunted me down; he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life. He put me in a black hole, buried me like a corpse in that dungeon. I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away, my heart heavy, like lead. I remembered the old days, went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked…”
After getting mugged, I started to wake up inside a little bit. I was dripping with regret and feeling more alone than ever. I was desperate for change.
Despite my stubbornness to come into community with God or anyone else, He gently (and frequently) probed at my heart; but I kept lashing back, refusing to let Him near me. It was a losing battle. Oh, but He was patient! Within a couple weeks, a young women’s ministry called Captured officially launched in my hometown, hugely emphasizing healthy community. I attended every once in a while, but I surely didn’t let them “in” too closely. That would be risky. I don’t like risks…and I didn’t really like girls either.
At the time I didn’t know it, but God was teaching me a huge lesson about the danger of isolation and the indubitable value of healthy community. My defenses slowly wore down and I began to develop solid friendships with young women who were passionate about God and driven to fulfill His destinies in their lives. I came to a realization that I just couldn’t isolate myself anymore. Vulnerability and risk were a necessity to climb out of this pit. I was finally ready to surrender my will back to God.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
- Psalm 139:7-10
I really think God set me up because one year later, I was smack dab in the middle of Captured, finding safety and encouragement within solid life-giving, Godly relationships. He used those wonderful young women to help pull me out of that ugly pit of isolation. A few months after that, I was given the amazing opportunity to volunteer my time for the ministry of Captured on a large level–and today, yet another year later, I have the wonderful privilege of directing the ministry of Captured under the leadership of Laura Allred, actively cultivating a place for young women to encounter healthy community and “run” with the dreams of God fully bursting in their hearts. I say God set me up because I see now how He turned my brokenness, my ashes, into something oh-so-beautiful! He took my darkest hour, and after healing my heart, He used it to fuel my passion to facilitate that kind of environment for other young women who are walking into the same traps that I did.
Beware of the pits of isolation, friend.
This very path (perhaps in singleness, or even within your marriage) you may be walking as well, and you were never intended to walk it alone. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” God intentionally us designed to do life with one another–to cry with each other, laugh with each other, to bring encouragement and correction. There is safety in walking that same worn path with other travelers nearby. Even when it winds around and around, and you feel like you’re being bombarded with lies from the enemy about your worth, walking in community helps you to refute them as you stand upon His Truth.
We were meant to engage in community with the living God who is the compass by which we direct our steps, even if it means that the compass only points “up”. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” Each step across the treacherous terrain of singleness requires full obedience to God and utter reliance on Him as a Guide. The path sometimes still feels worn with the same retraced steps, but He is so faithful to lead us in the right direction.
If you are a young, single woman upholding Godly standards today, you will surely agree that it is often a challenge–one that feels daunting and downright lonely sometimes. Walk that path with Him as your Guide; link arms with others beside you on the journey, and you are guaranteed to be led on a wild adventure! He will not lead you astray! He is a rock and a firm foundation and will uphold you even when the roads are slippery and you are unsure of your surroundings. Refuse the temptation to isolate yourself in spite of an aching heart. Trust in, rely on, and put your hope in Him (Psalm 43:5). He will not disappoint you!
(Originally published in www.destinyinbloom.com.)