The world doesn’t understand me and I don’t understand the world. That is why I have withdrawn. – Paul Cezzane
We probably practice withdrawing every day in some form or fashion. As I write this I have withdrawn to my bedroom to jot down a few sentences bouncing around my head. I needed the silence and privacy of being “with me.” Of all the things I do well in life the one thing I can do better and easier than anything else is withdraw. But this at least is a good kind of withdrawing because it has purpose, has a limit, and will actually offer a benefit to my overall well being.
But all withdrawing is not the same.
People withdraw from society when we feel it is dangerous or discouraging. People will withdraw from friends and from church when they do not feel connected or supported. Withdrawing is the most basic of human instincts and we do need to read a primer on how to do it. It comes naturally to us when we don’t know what else to do. Withdrawing is a discipline that may preserve our life and/or resources, but will usually cost us a friendship or great experience because we chose to not be present or to be present and not be engaged.
I am in daily conversations with those who are withdrawing from being a part of the organized church. They don’t like it and they don’t trust it (the church). So they withdraw. Others willingly are withdrawing from politics, from community participation/leadership, or from long term friendships that have changed with time and the evolution of life. A few are even cutting ties with siblings, cousins, and life long friends who no longer fit in their comfortable life. They are withdrawing from those networks of support and meaning that make life livable and laughable.
When someone withdraws from something or from someone it usually is a survival act. It is the thing that feels most right. Our bones tell us to get away or we might get hurt. So we listen to ourselves and sever precious memories and words to and from our treasured friendships and connections. We feel like this is the thing to do, but 999 times out of a 1,000 we are wrong. Our feelings lie to us and we believe it.
Withdrawing is the easy way out. It does not require courage or conviction. Withdrawing doesn’t make us better or better off. It makes us alone and without companions. Withdrawing feeds our paranoid and selfish temperaments. Withdrawing with others in life will tempt us – perhaps lead us – to withdrawing from God and going fully alone in withdrawal from crucial life lines. Choosing to withdraw instead of connect and creatively journey with others will make our life short and without sweetness. Withdrawing from God will lead us on the loneliest, darkest, dangerous paths possible.
When God created man and woman He did so for the purpose of connection rather than competition or coersion with each other. Connection is the opposite of withdrawing. We connect with God and He with us. Man connects with men for brotherhood/friendship and with a woman for intimacy/companionship/nurturing. Woman connects with women for sisterhood/friendship/empathy and with a man for intimacy/companionship/protection. (These are just a few of the reasons for connection.) Perhaps the most primal detail about any of us is our need and ability to connect to others in life. Without connection our relationships in life are incomplete and unable to sustain us through trials and turmoil. We need to not only know people, but we need to really KNOW them in intimate, trusting, dependable, transparent ways. Withdrawing makes that impossible.
So stop withdrawing. Don’t go dark or hide who you really are. Be you and let others be them so that together great and collaborative partnerships may bear fruit and bring joy to our hearts. Reject the idea of going it alone in faith. Pull up to the table that God has put our for you – the church – and eat plenty, laugh deeply, and tell stories of a God who connects to His creation in the most meaningful and saving ways.
Don’t wait until you have understood God or understood those in the world before you decide to connect with them. You won’t ever fully understand God and you won’t likely understand your spouse, your best friend, your pastor, or your pet. But you can accept them all and share a few decades together choosing to not withdraw, retreat or give up.