It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.
It is in solitude that we are confronted with the hidden and neglected pockets of our souls. The areas we work so hard to avoid. I think many of us neglect this discipline because it often brings us to a very undesirable place...the wilderness. There is an episode of The Office in which Michael Scott, the quirky insecure manager of a paper supply company, is determined to spend a couple days in the wilderness after discovering that several guys from the office went on a camping trip and neglected to invite him. So, Michael sets out on a trip of his own, Man vs. Wild style, to prove to his peers that he doesn't need them.
My time in seminary and this past year, following graduation, has probably been the most difficult and darkest season in my spiritual life. In seminary I was faced with an overload of information about theology. Everyone and their mom has an opinion about every detail of theology and there are about a million ways to interpret Scripture. I felt completely overwhelmed and lost in the crowd of voices. I was faced with questions I had never considered. And Fuller did a pretty awesome thing (that was very frustrating at the time). They didn't provide a ton of answers. My professors taught us, gave us resources, posed the questions, but left it up to us to discover and learn (through an enormous amount of reading and writing). I thought I'd find answers in seminary! But in reality I left with more questions.
Have you ever been there? Lots of questions and no answers? This is not an easy place to be. It's scary, frustrating, and lonely. And I'm not sure I'm out of the wilderness yet. Sometimes I feel like this weightloss journey might be GOD LEADING ME OUT. It's amazing how much our physical lives intertwine with our spiritual ones. I think overeating and laziness has been a way I have coped in the wilderness. I didn't want to face my nothingness, the hidden and neglected pockets of my soul. My struggles, fears, questions. I wanted to find that protection, comfort, and nourishment. Eating became something I could depend on. Three times a day I have to eat. When I eat I get to be occupied with that activity. I don't have to do anything else. I don't have to answer any questions, face my fears, make plans, stress about the unknown. I just get to sit and eat. It's an escape. So, why not make the most of that...and eat more. But this pursuit for nourishment wasn't nourishment at all - it was poisonous.
For the past three months I've been paying more attention to how I feel as I eat. Am I eating because I'm hungry or because I feel lost? And if it's not because I'm hungry then what do I need to work through? What am I avoiding? I think one of the most important things I took away from seminary is the value of asking meaningful questions. Sometimes it stinks. I KNOW. But questions move us into the deeper hidden places of our hearts and minds. So I leave you with a few...
What are you avoiding?
What do you depend on?
When is the last time you spent some serious time in solitude, not at the spa or by taking a nap,
but uninterrupted, facing your nothingness kind of solitude?
What questions do you need to ask yourself?