A few years ago I was in New Orleans on a missions trip with my internship program during Mardi Gras, and on one day in particular the group I had been assigned to for that week was chosen to go to a local middle school and help organize and rebuild the schools library which had been damaged during hurricane Katrina. On the car ride leaving the school our group started to play a game where each person had to describe another person in one word, and explain why he or she chose that word. The fun was in the fact that most of us had only met three days prior and were complete strangers, so your guess was either right or completely wrong. Our site leader, Kerry, had chosen to describe me and the word she chose was introspective. She said, “You seem like the type of person who internalizes things so you can understand them. Someone who’s a deep thinker. Like, you like to think about things and figure out how they make sense to you. And you’re quiet” I was at first pleasantly surprised because she was right. I thought that being introspective made me deep and that’s what most people want to be. I enjoyed being the mysterious guy. On the other hand, I was taken aback a bit because I thought I was being social. I mean c’mon I was sitting in a van full of strangers playing a game. I was at the peak of my social life. It was then I started to wonder whether being introspective was good or bad. That moment took place roughly four years ago, and since then I’ve been able to gain some perspective on the topic.
As with everything else in this life there are delicate balances that need to be approached with tact and patience. Introspection is no different. Last year there was a period of time when I was forced to burrow a hole deep into my mind and confront some not-so-very pleasant things. I felt that God wanted me to face these things toe-to-toe. These events from my past that I had wished to be rid of were now necessary for me to move on with my life. To this day I am grateful that I made the uncomfortable journey in to the past because it brought a lot of issues to light, and put a face on some demons that needed to be beaten. The answers I needed were there all along hidden behind a pile of dirt I didn’t want to move. Today, I am better for it and with God’s help those demons haven’t returned since. As time went on I noticed that there were some new problems arising because of this hole I had dug up. I allowed myself to believe that all the answers to my life rested in my own mind. I let myself be convinced that I could venture into myself and fix all of my own problems, or at the very least hide from them. After enough trips that small hole became a worn path into a much larger cave that I could run into when I needed it. This cave became a sanctuary where I could escape from the world, and leave the ground littered with confetti and left over cake from my previous pity-parties. I could sit there and pick apart everything that was wrong with me, then walk out feeling like I had accomplished something productive.
Herein lies the problem with this type of introverted-ness. We dive into ourselves over and over to hunt out these demons, but when we find them we don’t know what to do with them. After awhile the residents we initially intended to evict end up becoming roommates. Letting ourselves believe that as long as we know them by name we can control them. Here is the part that I let myself forget, and hopefully you learn from my mistake. Going back and figuring out what was wrong with me wasn’t the only step, it was just the first. It was God who got rid of those demons when I dragged them out kicking and screaming. So many of us get caught up in that first step of identifying what our problem is that we stop there. But my friends, cancer is not cured by simply acknowledging it exists. It takes a series of tests, processes, medicines, and time to treat. I didn’t get to where I am today just by admitting there was something wrong. I got here by allowing God to shine a light into my darkness and submitting to the fact that I wasn’t strong enough to get through it alone. I got here by remembering that every time my blistered hands moved a shovel full of dirt that God was right there with me ready to face whatever was uncovered. Most of us hate to admit that we’re not strong enough to face our demons on our own. We all want to be our own saviors, our own heroes. But, it is that kind of pride that makes introspection a dangerous game. If the answers to all of life’s problems were really inside of us all along why is the world crashing around us? Why are beautiful women still insecure, and grown men still acting like boys? It’s because we have all gotten complacent on just putting names on things like insecurity, fear, anger, etc. We need to stop trying to simply identify problems and start dealing with them, by letting the more capable hands of God fix what is broken. Intentional healing begins with identification and is carried out through willful submission.