I grew up in isolation.
Far away from the reach and influence of others, I was kept alone for my “protection.”
I honestly think that my mother believed that if she kept me away from other people, then I would never get hurt again.
Like maybe if she kept me away from boys, I could never be raped again… or better yet, I wouldn’t have sex.
Like maybe if she kept me away from other people, I would never do what typical teens did, like drink and steal.
Like maybe if she kept me away from outsiders, life would be perfect and the pain from my past would magically disappear.
Sadly, she was wrong.
Isolation didn’t keep me safe; it just kept me naive. It kept me unaware of how to engage with other people and how to heal from the trauma of my life.
Hear me clearly, Beloved.
This is not a post bashing the protective intentions of my mother or the other women in my family.
This is a post about how I felt then and how I feel now.
So, let’s go.
I remember wanting to be “normal.”
Everyone else got to go to their friends’ houses after school or go to parties on the weekend. Yet I was never allowed to go out. There’s a running joke that people born around my time and before were supposed to come home when the street lights came on. Well, my “curfew” was as soon as I got home from school. I hated it. I hated being so far removed from everything and everybody. I just wanted to be able to do what everyone else was able to do.
After a while, I stopped asking my mom if I could hang out. Friends would ask and I would just tell them that I was busy or had other plans. It was always a lie. Back then I was really good at lying. Telling people what they wanted to hear versus how I truly felt became easier with every spoken word. After all, no one wanted to hear my truth; no one wanted to hear how I really felt. If they did, they never would have kept me in isolation.
Isolation back then wasn’t just not allowing me to go places.
Isolation back then was making me feel like I had no voice and say in my own life.
Isolation back then was never allowing me to mature at the same rate of my peers.
Didn’t she know that the tragedy of my youth had already aged me and that time with my peers might have helped slow down my aging?
Funny thing is, after 18 years of my mother keeping me in isolation, I continued the pattern by often removing myself from many social situations. My desire and ability to say NO has increased drastically over the years… so much so that people stop inviting me to things. Just like I knew back then that a hard NO would come from the lips of my mother if I asked for some time outside of the house, my friends and family know that a NO will likely pass through my lips before a YES when asked out today.
I learned how to do a lot of things in isolation. Most of all, I learned how to write and share my voice without ever speaking a word. That’s a good thing, right? Hmm, I thought it was…
However, even as I sit in this space right now, I see the effects of isolation.
I think of the lies that I told others then… the lies that I tell myself now… and how much pain lies in between the two.
I look at my nieces as they walk down the same path as me (just 20-25 years later) and my concern for them grows.
Suffocation in isolation seems more like the reality that we endure…
Yet I am choosing to find grace in this, too.
As defined by Britannica, grace is, “ the spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine favor in the salvation of sinners, and the divine influence operating in individuals for their regeneration and sanctification.” Reading that tells me one thing- that where grace is, God is there, too.
In my opinion, I feel like growing up in isolation stripped me of any chance of experiencing typical childhood joys. I also believe that it is important for children to just be, well, children. Not too long ago our school district was closed for Winter Break. My friend has a 15-year old daughter that he encouraged to spend as much time as possible with her peers during the break. His decision was new for me because it was something that I had not experienced in my own life.
My mom did not let me hang out with my peers during breaks from school.
My sisters don’t let my nieces spend time with their friends during breaks.
For us, breaks meant uninterrupted study time and time to focus on academic growth for the future. Never did it mean that it was time to have fun and do what children do.
To be honest, prior to sitting down and unpacking my thoughts, I struggled with seeing the grace in isolation. I was just frustrated that the patterns that had defined my life looked like they were now defining the lives of those around me. I wanted to safely vent, releasing the pain from my heart. Yet here I sit on this side of my thoughts, realizing that God was in the midst of my isolation then, and He is still present now.
The Bible talks about many instances of people encountering “wilderness experiences” right before monumental movements in their lives. For example, before Joseph ascended to his position in Egypt, he had to go through years of slavery and imprisonment. That was his wilderness experience. That time prepared him for what God planned on doing in his life.
Another example is seen the 40 years that the children of Israel wandered through the desert before reaching the land that God had promised them. In an exodus from Egypt that should have taken a few days, the Israelites roamed for decades as God prepared their minds and hearts for the blessings that He had in store for them.
Lastly, an example is seen in Jesus Himself. After being baptized by John the Baptist and acknowledged by His Father, Jesus was immediately sent to the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights prior to the commencement of His three years of earthly ministry.
In all three examples listed, God had divine plans for His children but He needed to prepare them in a unique way for what was to come.
Isolation wasn’t a curse; isolation was preparation.
As I continue to press the worn keys of my Chromebook (worn from pouring out my heart week after week), I realize that what I once thought was punishment, was actually protection and provision. The grace in isolation is that it allows God to grow us in His own way and prepare us for what is next in His kingdom. For me, my next involves helping other teens make it through the various seasons of their lives. It took me a long time to realize that my ministry and gift lane is youth engagement but now that I know that, there is absolutely no going back. The period of my life that was the most difficult for me, is the exact time that God sends me to so that I can help others heal through that same place.
Beloved, you are not alone. Whatever problem or situation you face right now, know that you are not alone. The GRACE in isolation is knowing that God is in your isolation.
I love you.
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopedia (2022, May 30). grace. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/grace-religion