What does Jesus think of the Bible?

Have you ever thought about what Jesus thinks of the Bible?

What do you think it is like for Him to sit down and read Scripture?

Do you think there is anything in the Bible that He disagrees with? What do you think is His interpretation of it? Is it His favorite book?

What if Jesus was the pastor of your church? How do you think He would teach the Bible to His congregation?

These peculiar questions aren’t necessarily a representation of some [hidden] theological agenda of mine. Rather, these are the kinds of questions that I have been genuinely wrestling with over the last couple of weeks. Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the significance of the Bible and what it means for us in this day and age. During this time of reflection, I have had the opportunity to engage in multiple insightful and challenging conversations about this topic with friends, and ultimately it has sparked a new fascination in me for the Bible.

However, I wonder what Jesus would tell me if I were to ask Him what the significance of the Bible is.

What if in response He asked, “What is the Bible?” How would you respond?

Maybe these questions seem absurd or pointless to ponder, but I think these are essential questions to be asking ourselves, each other, and God. As Christians, I have recognized that we (myself included) often become too comfortable and satisfied with our knowledge of Scripture. I think that for many of us, reading Scripture becomes more about knowing facts about God rather than actually getting to know God in a relational context. The Gospels often depict Jesus telling the most educated scholars of Scripture that they do not know God. Personally, I know how easy it is to judge people like the Pharisees who thought that they knew God because they had exceptional knowledge of Scripture and the law. But in all honesty, I think that we Christians often embody the same arrogance and complacency that the Pharisees had.

In John 17:3, Jesus says “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” So, we know that according to Scripture eternal life is a relationship with God. But what does your relationship with God look like when you’re not spending intentional time in prayer or reading the Bible?

What does God say to you when you’re not reading Scripture?

Does God speak to you through texts other than the Bible?

Do you recognize and experience God outside of His “Word?”

Do you experience God through your interactions with other people?

Scripture tells us about how God was active in the lives of specific people, in a specific context in time. But what does it teach us about how God is active in this specific, current moment in time?

Based on the depiction that we get of Jesus in Scripture, He seemed to always be pointing beyond the text. Jesus was God in the flesh, and it was those who thought they knew the most about God who refused to participate and experience a relationship with God outside of Scripture and the law.

Jesus seemed to teach that knowing and experiencing God was not limited to a singular text, regardless of how important and essential it is. Instead, Jesus met people wherever they were at in their journey, regardless of what they knew or how they lived. The Bible tells us many stories of individuals with and without faith who experienced God in some sort of manifestation.

Personally, I am recognizing how Scripture reveals the unpredictability and spontaneous characteristics of God, and how God always seems to be active and manifest in the most unexpected ways. But rather than merely share my perspective about the potential answers to all of these questions, my hope is to encourage you to engage in a similar dialogue and reflect on what these questions mean for you on your own current journey. If any of the content in this blog post stirs up some tension or strong emotion, I encourage you to confront it and reflect on the possible implications.

 

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I’ll Judge You Before I Love You: Reflecting on the Death of Mac Miller

Today, hip-hop artist and producer, Mac Miller, passed away at age 26.

I accidentally discovered the news during a ten minute break at work. While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across a post by Chance the Rapper that contained a picture of a tour poster. The Lineup read as follows:

The Space Migration Tour:
Mac Miller
Chance the Rapper
The Internet
Vince Staples
Earl Sweatshirt
Action Bronson

I felt ecstatic for a brief moment and immediately began searching for upcoming tour dates on Google, ignorant that this was a tour that took place in 2013, a couple of years before all of these supporting artists got big; back when they were all just mixed tape artists. Evidently, the fact that I initially searched for current tour dates when I saw this post reveals that I’ve never listened to or followed Mac Miller closely. In fact, I was only intrigued by this lineup because Chance the Rapper and Vince Staples were listed on the bill. My initial thought was something like, “I guess I’ll pay money for a Mac Miller concert if I get to see Chance and Vince perform.”

On my way home from work, I began listening to Miller’s latest album Swimming on Spotify. And his shit is good. I inevitably pondered why I had never gotten into his music, or even given it a chance for that matter. And I knew why.

Because to me, he looked like the epitome of a drug addict, and if he was a drug addict, then must just be a shitty person who was also selfish, unwise, and indifferent to others.

I know that’s fucked up. I know how shitty and horrific of me it was to judge someone solely based off of their appearance. It disturbs me deeply that I even am capable of and would think something so awful about another individuals. But we do this all of the time as human beings. We are so quick to pass judgment on others, whether it’s to the extent that I did or worse. We do it without even thinking about it most of the time.

So subsequently, I began to ponder… what if I, or literally anyone else for that matter, had thought to message, DM, call, or tweet Mac Miller this morning… what if someone had said,

Hey Malcolm… I just wanted you to know that you are loved and valued, regardless of what you’ve been through or are going through. Regardless of who people think you are or how you think of yourself. You are talented, caring, thoughtful, encouraging, and full of LIGHT. Even when it’s dark out. Just wanted reaffirm this in you. Hope you have an incredible day.

Maybe things would have turned out differently.
Maybe he would still be here.
Maybe he wouldn’t be and things would be the same.

I’ve been reading dozens of posts on social media from some of my favorite artists, most expressing or recounting how Mac Miller was the guy who (a) encouraged them to pursue music, (b) took them out on one of their first tours, (c) gave them a place to live when they first moved to LA, etc. This guy had a genuinely beautiful soul that touched the hearts of many in some of the most impactful and meaningful ways. All of these people had so many beautiful things to say about this human being, and possibly these beautiful comments weren’t articulated enough. Perhaps Mac didn’t see the beauty of his own heart. I don’t know. But I guess, in summary, I am more stifled than ever about how passing judgment on others is, perhaps, more second nature to us than expressing love.

What if our ability to express love to others was as active as our habit to pass judgement?  What if when we thought or felt love towards another, we didn’t hesitate to express and manifest that love, instead of keeping it to ourselves? Why do we tend to be so much quicker to express our judgment than our empathy, admiration, or compassion?

What a difference it would make if this table were flipped upside down.

How to Take a Perfect Photograph

I’m a week now 24, and still self-love is more challenging than I ever imagined it would be.

My experience of self-love is like an idea for a photograph. In my head, I know exactly what it looks like and what I need to do in order to achieve the result that I want, but the final image is rarely – if ever – the result I was hoping/aiming for.

Then I reminisce on the photographs I’ve taken that turned out to be so much more beautiful and artistic than I could have imagined; there was something different about them… just like the moments where I feel completely content and in love with who I am, in Jesus. There is something different about these experiences. There is no self-inflicted pressure or expectation to perform a certain way. I’m not under the influence of a mentality that insists that self-love is achieved through a formula or an equation.

I’m just me.
And I’m happy with me, and that’s enough.

My favorite pictures are those which I just pressed the shutter and marveled at the image for what it was, rather than lamenting how it was lacking something and could have turned out better… if only the clouds were more dramatic, if only the sun were shining on that mountain, if only Margot Robbie was standing in that field (because damn girl).

My favorite photograph that I’ve taken recently is an unfocused image of a friend walking through a field. Ironically, I didn’t intend to shoot the image out of focus… it was just a result of my inability to figure out how to work my new camera, in all honesty. The result wasn’t anything that I went out of my way for or expected to capture, but it turned out to be the image that I was most satisfied and captivated by. Likewise, I’m realizing that self-love is more genuinely experienced when I’m not trying so hard to be something or someone else. Sure, I could be more selfless, I could be wiser, I could be more friendly, less judgmental, or more intelligent and talented. But I could always be more when I’m performing. I could always be more when enough is never enough.

I don’t believe that God asks or expects me to be anything other than His. And that’s already an inherent reality that is inevitable and unwavering. I am His, now and forever. That means that God doesn’t expect me to be anything more than who I already am; His child.

I guess… actually, I know that I don’t need to exhaust myself by enacting a performance of something that I’m not. There is no need to redefine myself. I don’t need to work so hard to be someone else. I don’t need to accomplish or earn anything in order to gain the right to love myself. I’m worthy and deserving of love without the sunset, without the clouds, without Margot Robbie posing in the foreground. I am enough as I am now. I have always been enough. I don’t need to perform anymore, and although I will inevitably try, I will end up finding that I will always love myself more for who I already am rather than who I pressure or expect myself to be.

So What?: On Mental Health and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

So what… right?

I wonder how many people actually know that May is the month for both Mental Health and Sexual Assault Awareness. To be completely honest, I was first aware of National Mimosa Day (May 16th) and National Wine Day (May 25th) before I was aware that the entire month of May was dedicated to promoting Sexual Assault Awareness.

These days, there seems to be a day and/or month dedicated to celebrate just about anything. So, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that these two topics go highly unrecognized even when there is an entire month set aside to intentionally raise awareness about them. However, it does sadden me that, even when set on a nationally promoted pedestal of advocacy, both mental health and sexual assault are treated, for the most part, no differently than if it were National Pop-Goes-the-Weisel Day (which is actually a legitimate holiday – June 14th, aka the day of my birth). I don’t believe this is because people don’t care; rather I believe that the consistent avoidance and ignorance of these issues is largely attributed to a fear of confronting the essence of the causes and effects of both mental health and sexual assault. I believe that many of us are afraid of being exposed to how disturbing, devastating, and horrific these experiences are in reality.

Over this last year, I have been exposed to the realities and consequences of mental health and sexual assault more than I ever had been in the preceding twenty-two years of my life. A significant contributor to my increased awareness were the seven months I spent working with at-risk teens in a wilderness therapy program in south-central Idaho. This job exposed me to various manifestations of mental health. I worked with many kids who suffered from depression, suicidal ideation, and many forms of anxiety and panic disorders. The manifestation of these mental illnesses were expressed differently, depending on the individual. Some kids responded with intense anger, sadness, and hatred, which they would take out on themselves and/or their peers, including my co-workers and I. Others would respond by isolating, staying mute, blaming others for their suffering, while some even denied that they had anything to work on at all. Regardless of how one’s suffering was expressed, behind each manifestation there was a narrative that was aching to be heard – a narrative, that for most of them, had been neglected or misinterpreted.

The most important lesson I learned during my experience in wilderness was to view each human being as a story waiting to be told and heard. Each kid that I met had certain experiences that led them to where they currently were, and their mental illness(es) were commonly (if not always) a result of their experiences. It could be challenging to not define a kid by their issues and behavior when they are swearing, threatening, fighting, and constantly acting out in some form defiance. Regretfully, there were some kids that I worked with who I failed to see as something other than the issue(s) that they were suffering through. Yet when I reflect on the kids who experienced the most significant transformations, it was those who’s stories were shared, and heard by their peers and instructors; it was the kids who were treated as human beings rather than as a patient with “X” illness or behavioral issue.

Outside of wilderness therapy, I have several friends who suffer from anxiety, depression, OCD, and panic disorders. The biggest difference between my friends’ experiences and the kids who I met in wilderness is that I have the privilege and honor of walking with my friends on the journey through their suffering continuously, rather than temporarily. When the consequences of mental illness inflict suffering on someone you know personally, it’s more difficult to view them as just an illness. Unfortunately, the way that many people avoid this way of viewing their friends is by avoidance; i.e. neglecting and/or minimizing the significance of their friend’s experience. I’ve found that avoidance tends to be an even more prevalent response to sexual assault.

Sexual assault is one of the few events in which the victim tends to be questioned before the perpetrator. As one of the most horrific crimes, it is the crime that receives the least amount of justice and the most amount of skepticism. Victims of rape and sexual assault, sadly, tend to be those whose stories of suffering go unheard, ignored, and even denied more than victims of any other crime. Of all the people I know who have been victims of rape or some form of sexual assault – my girlfriend included – none of their assaulters have been convicted for their crime. Rape and sexual assault are handled by the criminal justice system in such a way that the odds are consistently against the victim. Many, if not most, cases of rape aren’t even taken to trial because the chances of winning such a case are so outrageously slim.

Most victims after such an event suffer from chronic depression, anxiety, and, most commonly, PTSD. I’ve seen these consequences manifested mostly through the suffering that my girlfriend experiences, even over two years after the horrific event. These consequences vary from the inability to articulate thoughts and feelings to complete dissociation, which mostly commonly occurs when something triggers the memory/experience of her assault. In wilderness, I met a few boys who had been victims of gang rapes, which for many of them was one of the thickest roots to their mental illness, and was also one of the stories that they had the most difficulty sharing with their peers. Not only is sexual assault a scary thing to hear about, but it is an experience that is even more terrifying to share about.

I think that it is only fitting that Mental Health and Sexual Assault Awareness are placed in the same month, because the two are so commonly intertwined and related to one another. I could write on and on about all each of these topics, but the amount of words to say is extensive and exhaustive.

I would like to finish with this: as we live out these last couple of weeks in May, and as you consider the concept of promoting Mental Health and Sexual Assault Awareness, think about all of the stories that have been unheard or left untold. Each person suffering from mental illness and each victim of sexual assault has a story to tell; a story that will continuously impact the remainder of their narrative, and that will continue to craft who they are and who they become. Each of these stories needs to be heard if healing is to commence and pervade. Mental Health and Sexual Assault might be two of the most uncomfortable and disturbing topics to confront and address, but they are also two of the most prevalent experiences of suffering for people today in our society. For suffering to come to a halt, it must be confronted and addressed. And that begins with listening to the stories of those suffering.

 

A list of narrative-driven resources on the topics of Mental Health and Sexual Assault:

  • The Hunting Ground [(a documentary on the incidences of sexual assault on college campuses) can be found on Netflix]
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
  • On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
  • 13 Reasons Why (can be found on Netflix)
  • Speak by Laura Halse Anderson

 

If you are suffering from mental illness and/or an experience of sexual assault and need help, try one of these resources:

– Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741

– Crisis Phone Line: 1-800-273-8255

– RAINN: Sexual Violence Hotline; 1-800-656-HOPE, or rainn.org

I Was Just Faking It: Depression and My Generation

A few months ago, a friend and I were discussing the increasing prevalence of depression in today’s society.

Not more than a couple of minutes into our conversation, my friend, sitting across from me, expressed an unsettling skepticism on the topic; I honestly wonder how many people are actually faking it and are just saying they are depressed for the attention… I just feel like the term ‘depressed’ is so overused.”

I was astonished by this response. Even now, I’m still appalled by my friend’s words. I don’t deny that there is probably some percentage of individuals who over-exaggerate their emotional state by saying they are depressed, yet simultaneously depression (and mental illness in general) is at an all time high in today’s society. So even if you haven’t been diagnosed with depression and claim that you’re depressed, there is likely some truth in your statement, and not surprisingly so. To initially respond with skepticism to any kind of mental illness is, essentially, the antithesis of empathy, and, in my opinion, is doing a great disservice to the human heart.

In 2015, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that “6.3 million teens [ages 12-17] have had an anxiety disorder.” In 2017, Relevant Magazine shared that “a new federal research has found that more than 8 million American adults suffer from ‘serious psychological distress,'” estimating that more than 3% of the American population suffers from some form of mental illness. An even more unsettling statistic came from The Huffington Post in 2015 revealing that 50% of Americans with depression do not receive treatment for their mental illness.

When I think of my friend’s skepticism, I’m honestly not surprised that 50% of the American population are not getting treatment for their depression. And I’m even less surprised by the percentage of people out there who are hesitant and/or refuse to open up about their mental illness. Why would anybody want to open up about their experience with depression if there is a chance that it will just be ignored, denied, or met with skepticism? To ignore or deny one’s mental illness is to refuse one’s call for help. In another sense, denying one’s current mental or emotional state is also minimizing the validity and authenticity of their own experience – it is, essentially, categorizing an individual’s mental or emotional experience as fictional.

Currently, I believe that we live in a society where judgement is often cast on those with depression or any form of mental illness. I have recognized, from firsthand and secondhand experience, that there is an underlying feeling of shame for experiencing depression, which frequently inhibits those with depression from speaking out about their suffering. Depression has a way of convincing you that the best thing to do is to say nothing. I believe that, for one, this is because depression thrives on being unaddressed. It wants to be kept a secret so it can grow infinitely.

Secondly, I believe this is because our society has trained itself to repress most suffering, especially when it comes to mental illness. If someone admits to being depressed, it is often perceived by others as a sign of weakness. Whereas other experiences of suffering, such as the loss of a loved one, are commonly responded to by others with tenderness, understanding, and support. Depression is often treated as though you are the problem, and that it is you who needs to get over it, and if you can’t then you need to see a professional who can fix it for you (which if you ask me, I personally believe that every human being should see a counselor, regardless if you suffer from a mental illness). Simultaneously, it seems that the expectations set by culture and society have made it so that mental illness is much less feasible form of suffering to overcome. As is true for any form of suffering, the less communal support that one has in the midst of it, the more challenging it is to overcome it.

In a society where mental illness is more common than ever – especially for my generation – the last thing we need is for people to dismiss or minimize the issue. If we are to ever find healing from this, we must nourish a society and culture where the most prevalent response to mental illness is listening, without presumptions, skepticism, or any form of agenda. The only agenda we should ever have is empathy and love. We need to establish a society where those suffering from mental illness can freely and safely articulate and experience their suffering without judgement. No one should ever have to live in fear of being treated differently or less than because of their mental health, or lack there of.

The road to healing from mental illness begins when we allow others to experience and live out their humanity – suffering, triumphs, and all. If we continue to ignore, deny, or respond with skepticism to those with mental illness, sufferers will continue to isolate, stay mute, or even deny that they are in need of help and support. If someone you know opens up about depression, unhesitantly greet them with open arms and hear their story with attentive ears and an open heart. Refusing to hear about one’s depression is simultaneously watering the soil for it to continuously grow.

If we can respond to depression and mental illness with a heart of empathy, we can increase the possibility of decreasing the pervading presence of it in our society. Empathizing doesn’t mean sympathizing – or in other words, it doesn’t mean fully understanding one’s suffering and/or comparing your suffering to their’s. Empathizing is living out the words, I am with you.

This is love, my friends. And Lord knows we need all the love we can get.

Sharing Your Heart With a Bunch of Defiant 12-Year Olds

It was my 23rd birthday.

It was also the second day of my first shift as a field instructor at blueFire Wilderness Therapy.

Right before lunch time, Mark, the group’s therapist, led a therapeutic exercise for the eight middle schoolers in our group. The purpose of this exercise was to create a mantra, of seven words or less, that would serve to empower you whenever you were confronted by your own personal struggles. Once you had made your mantra, you were required to share it with the rest of the group via performance. Though “performance” isn’t the most adequate description for what subsequently commenced.

Each student was told to stand up in the fire pit before their peers. First, you were to whisper your mantra as quietly as possible. Then, you would voice it in a normal conversational volume. Lastly – and this is where most struggled – you were to scream your mantra, not as loudly as you could, but rather as fiercely and passionately as you possibly could. The point, Mark tried to explain, was to unleash all of the tension and anxiety buried within you as a means of exiling and conquering your inner demons. In this sense, this wasn’t exactly a performance that you could act your way through. The experience of being liberated from your inner restraints is an evidently powerful event to witness, especially when displayed on a sort of pedestal.

However, this was an exercise not only required for the students, but for the instructors as well. As a means to help navigate me in the right headspace, Mark asked me about my personal struggles in front of the entire group – a group of individuals who I had known for less than twenty-four hours. In response, I shared about my tendency to be a perfectionist and set intangible expectations for myself, and how I struggle to see the good and easily focus on the negatives.

“Hmm. So, you struggle with finding contentment in yourself then, huh?”

Yup. Nailed it.

 

As I brainstormed what would be an appropriate and beneficial mantra, I watched these kids share the words they had discerned to be meaningful and effective weapons when battling their vices. Some of these boys knew exactly what words they would need in combat, and as they screamed them aloud into the desert it was evident that they were well aware of their inner demons and were attacking them with a vengeance. Other boys upon their turn had yet to create a mantra for themselves, in which case Mark and the rest of us would assist in the introspective part of the exercise, and once a mantra was decided on, it was even more evident in their tone of voice – and body language – that they were uncertain if they believed the words they were proclaiming.

Once each student had finished, it was my turn to step on to the figurative pedestal. Never in my life have I felt as vulnerable as I did in that moment. As I stood there, my mantra jammed in the back of my throat, I could not look at anyone. I couldn’t open my eyes without revealing a rapid stream of tears. And I hadn’t even shared my mantra yet. The very thought of it made me emotional unstable.

Without a word having to be said, Mark recognized this and encouraged me to be patient with myself and take my time. Subsequently, one of the students in an attempt to be encouraging stated, “It’s okay, we’ve seen plenty of instructors cry.” This inevitably caused me to ponder what cruel – or potentially beautiful – things these kids had said or done to make a grown man or woman cry in front of them.

After taking a couple of minutes to regain my ability to speak without choking up, I managed to whisper my mantra.

“That is perfect for you,” Mark affirmed.

Another thirty seconds went by, and I spoke it loud enough for everyone to hear.

As I inhaled and prepared to scream it aloud, I was once again choked up by my emotion – or perhaps choked by my perfectionist ego as a last attempt to keep me restrained by my inner demons.

Finally, I regained composure. I felt that I was ready. I closed my eyes and exploded like a sprinter out of the starting blocks as I yelled, “I’m imperfect, and I love myself.”

All of the tears came rushing uncontrollably. The kids began cheering for me. Mark let out an ecstatic, “WOOO. Ladies and gentlemen, now that’s how it is done!” A weight had been lifted. I felt free and unbound. I felt loved, from myself. Never before had I proclaimed love for myself and believed I was worthy of it. For the first time, on my 23rd birthday, I experienced self-love; love for who I was – failures, triumphs, flaws, beauty, and all. This was the greatest birthday gift I have ever received.

Even ten months later, it’s difficult to think about this experience without my eyes swelling in tears. There are days when my past demons visit me and knock on my door. There are even times when I still let them in, but they no longer dwell here. There is no place in my heart for unworthiness to sleep; there is no room for self-hatred and disgust to grow. I have learned, accepted, and now nurture the fact that I am beautiful, worthy, enough as I am.

Below is a poem that my girlfriend shared with me only four days before my 23rd birthday, although we weren’t dating at the time that she shared this with me. May it speak to and resonate with your heart.

 

‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘after…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘before…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘when…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘how…’ you answer.
‘as you are.’ says the universe.
‘why…’ you answer.
‘because
you are happening now.
right now.
right at this moment
and
your happening
is beautiful.
the thing that keeps me alive
and
brings me to my knees.
you don’t even know how breathtaking you
are.
as you are.’ says the universe through tears

Nayyirah Waheed in “as you are | you are the prayer” in Nejma

I’d Rather Be Alone

I’m currently sitting at my dining room table.
Alone.

There are only a few hours each week where I am not surrounded by other people. These moments of solitude typically occur during the first and last hour of my day when I’m not working one of my two jobs, running or lifting at the gym, or spending time with my loved ones. Yet, even when I do get an hour or two to myself, I tend to find myself inviting the noise and presence of others by playing loud music or watching Netflix.

One of the consistent moments I have to myself everyday is while I’m in my car commuting to work, or wherever else I need to be. 9.5 times out of ten I am listening to music at maximum volume during these commutes. Yesterday, as I was driving, I came across a song by Mick Jenkins, entitled “Angels.” He proposes two introspective questions on this track that caught my attention:

  1. What do you feel when you look into your own eyes?
  2. If you’ve never been alone then how you know yourself?

These questions have caused me to reminisce on a recent season of life where I was literally afraid of being alone with myself. During that time of life, all I could hear when I was alone was the voice of my perfectionist ego saying that I wasn’t enough; that I wasn’t accomplishing enough; wasn’t giving enough; not successful or wealthy enough. Nothing was enough. When I was alone, I didn’t know how to love myself, because the perfectionist in me did not render me worthy of love.

During this season, I lived in a house with five other guys. I was the only one of us six who wasn’t in school. I had an entirely different schedule than my housemates. On the days that I had off from work, I was typically left at the house alone for several hours. On my days off, if I couldn’t find anybody to make plans with, I would drive to a coffee shop across town and spend the day reading, writing, or on my computer just so I could be around people and avoid being alone with the perfectionist condemning me in my head. Over the last year, I have experienced an immense amount of healing from the perfectionist mentality that I once used to define myself. I’m not as terrified to be alone with myself, but I can’t deny that it still occasionally makes me feel nervous. But I suppose I am realizing that solitude and loneliness are two very different states of being.

Loneliness is a form of discomfort and a reality of lacking something. Loneliness is terrifying for many, because it is a state of being that reveals that you are unfulfilled; it reveals that you have a missing piece(s) to your puzzle. Solitude, I am learning, is experienced when being alone feels more like a deep exhale, rather than a slow suffocation. I am learning that being in solitude is an opportunity to look into my own eyes – into my own heart – and celebrate who I am without anyone else’s permission. Like any relationship, it is an opportunity to sit down and get to know myself better; to acknowledge how I am feeling and why; to recognize what my current needs are and how I can fulfill them; to understand what makes me feel content with who I am, and what makes me feel dissatisfied instead.

And maybe that’s the best word to describe the difference between loneliness and solitude: content. I have never been lonely and felt content. I have felt content when in solitude. The beginning of the journey is discovering what makes you feel content with yourself. And it is a process. But you need to be alone with yourself in order to make that discovery.

Mick Jenkins finishes the track with this proclamation:

Had to get to know myself before I claimed I love me
Nobody else, just for myself, got more myself just for me
Growing everyday, I’m growing everyday, growing everyday.

 

This week, I want to practice solitude and celebrating the beautiful creation that God made of me. I want to get to know myself more thoroughly in order to practice more genuine acts of self-love and care. Perhaps, I’ll take myself out to dinner. Or maybe out to a movie? Probably just a really calm and peaceful long run, because that’s my real love language.

 

if I am the longest relationship
of my life
isn’t it time to
nurture intimacy
and love
with the person
i lie in bed with each night

– rupi kaur