• M. J. Chrisman

Spiritual Isolation & the Solo Journey

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

Photo by H. Heyerlein of woman with neon speckles painted on her face with a black background

Think of a time when you felt utterly alone, rejected, maybe even abandoned. Like being trapped in a locked room with nowhere to go and little air to breath, isolation—especially spiritual isolation—can be crushing at times.

I’ve been feeling the weight of spiritual isolation more and more lately, so I took a solo journey to visit friends and family in Colorado and, more pointedly, to do some writing and reflecting.

There, in a log cabin deep in a snow-filled canyon, I had a breakthrough of sorts. It came when I felt utterly alone. I mean completely alone, deep in the mountains, with no cell reception, Wi-Fi, or radio.

My cliché epiphany? Spiritual isolation can transform into something beautiful.

Throughout my journey, I listened to a song written by my friend Daniel: “In a Room Called God” by Future Phantoms. (Watch the video below if you want to check out his music and chill scenes from my trip). While driving beneath grandiose mountains and cutting through deep vales, the song became a metaphor for everything I have been feeling lately. When we think we are completely isolated, sometimes the mountains/wilderness becomes our “room,” and that room is called God.

Sometimes God is our isolation… and that means it can be beautiful.

Someone once told me we are most like God when we are present with ourselves, because if He/She/It is outside of time and space, then the future and past are warping in on themselves and occurring simultaneously. Thus, the present becomes an eternal moment within the divine. In those times of meditation, there’s no need for personal regrets or even self-vindication.

Love validates itself. Love validates you.

But what is the point of love if it cannot be shared? How can isolation bring beauty into an already ugly world?

As human beings, we live in a constant tension between needing isolation and community. Christ lived out this internal/social game of tug of war as a prime example. In the quiet solitude, I am sure he recharged and unearthed new aspects of himself, but it was in community that he exercised his passions and shared his lived experiences with others.

So, what happens when your lifelong faith community marginalizes you and others for theological differences and forces you into spiritual isolation? Speaking from a former evangelical perspective, when organized religion tries to extinguish your ever-expanding, inclusive spirit, how do you find inner peace as an exile?

The Christian church is losing (and/or ejecting) thousands of followers/believers every year, and yet another faith group is emerging: irreligious spirituality. You’ve probably heard the statement, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning they still believe in some cosmological significance, be it a divine being or a humanitarian worldview, but they don’t belong to any organized religion.

I can relate. As I walked through fresh pinewoods and reflected on snowy mountaintops this past week, I realized my Christian/spiritual beliefs are more vibrant and meaningful to me than at most points of my life. However, I have never felt so isolated from the mainstream faith because of my divergent theological/political beliefs. What’s worse, the more religion gets entangled with politics, the more polarized our spiritual communities become.

This growing group of spiritual orphans and sojourners should mean something to today’s faith leaders. Sadly, instead of reengaging their sacred texts and challenging the status quo, they double down on their efforts in hopes of maintaining their hegemonic, totalitarian interpretations of faith.

The result? Millions of people living in spiritual isolation—or perhaps, freedom?

Perhaps something evergreen can spring from our deserts of loneliness. With every faith movement, the religious hierarchies only break down when the people, motivated by love and justice, challenge societal norms. Even when there is a mass exodus into the wilderness, like we’re seeing with the 21st century Church, maybe there’s still hope the people will return to the promise land with a renewed spirit for inclusive community.

So, lean into your spiritual isolation. You have no idea what beauty awaits you in the quiet loneliness.

#Mysticism #Otherizing #Spiritual #Christianity #Religion #Evangelicalism

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