I really, really dislike solitude. Everybody who knows me gets that. I score extremely high on the “extrovert” scale, which means that being surrounded by people energizes me. I once went on a retreat that had enforced solitude. We could not speak to one another for an entire night and into the next morning. I thought I would die.
But today I read something that blew me away:
“In solitude, we stop believing our own press.”
Whoa. This nugget comes from Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, which my church staff is reading together as we consider our personal leadership style and the challenges of leading others. In her chapter on solitude, Barton asserts that it is only when we are apart from others and quiet in our own souls that we can begin to deal with our false self.
People develop false selves as a way of negotiating past experiences as they deal with current realities. The false self is a set of adaptive behaviors that are often in opposition to the life of love and trust that God offers us and wants from us. False selves come from a need for self-preservation, but can be a strong obstacle when it comes to having an authentic relationship with Christ, who knows our true selves (and loves us anyway.)
Luke 12 (The Message)
2 You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.
In this passage, Jesus is speaking directly to his disciples and warning them about the habits of the Pharisees. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees acted like a yeast that could easily spread and detract from God’s message. They were a negative witness to the love, compassion, and true mission of God’s people.
Jesus warns us to remain authentic and present ourselves as we truly are. No religious masks, no talking behind our hands out of both sides of our mouths…eventually everyone gets exposed for who they actually are. So stop believing your own press, and OWN UP.
In Christ, there is no need for false selves, blown up egos, over-aggrandized facades, or hiding. It’s a come-as-you-are party with him. He sees you for all that you are, and loves you unconditionally.
Take a quiet moment today to reflect on that. Jesus knows all about you, and grace, mercy, and forgiveness are always his response when you open up and are real with him.
Solitude will reinforce this…if you let it.