Think of the last time when you were in a conversation or situation that got uncomfortable. Maybe it was completely innocent but you or the other person just couldn’t spit out your words and it got awkward. Maybe someone had wronged someone else and anger seemed to loom large. Maybe you just hate being bad at things and the topic was related to something you’ve failed at or are afraid to fail at.
Whatever the reason, there seem to be certain people and situations that tempt us to cut the moment short. We don’t like how that moment feels and we, often unconsciously, insert an excuse to end the moment and move on to the next.
Growing up I had a lot of days where, for whatever reason, I was convinced that I was incompetent. After a while I began to notice a pattern on those days: A few sentences into every conversation I would insert a joke, often at my expense, and then while people were laughing I’d toss in a quick reason I had leave to get something done or be somewhere else. At first it seemed innocent, but as I thought about it the truth was exposed. My shame at feeling incompetent and unlikable drove me to actually break off human interactions and escape. I became an “Escape Artist” and it looked like this:
Getting dressed for work I see more gray hair in my beard than ever. How is it I’m still wondering what to do when I grow up and yet my hair is already turning gray? Wasn’t I supposed to have this worked out by now? On top of it, I’ve been trying to record the same song for a month and I won’t have any time to work on it again this week because of my day job. Am I even a real musician? Real musicians have albums and people who care if they play or not, right? I don’t seem to. People must look at me and think, “I bet Pamela gets tired of supporting her husband. He still acts like a teenaged boy who wants to be a rock star. What a mismatch.”
About an hour into my routine I get a message from someone who purports to like me. It says,
@DavidB “Hey I loved the worship music at church yesterday. Want to have lunch?”
As I read the message I decipher it this way in my head,
@PoseurMusician “Hey, I don’t know enough about music to know you screwed up pretty much the whole set yesterday, so I naively think you did a good job. But soon I’ll realize you’re a failure and stop calling you. You should be ashamed. So you’ve been doing this for over 25 years and that was what you came up with? Pathetic. Want to have lunch? Maybe at lunch your incompetency will finally get exposed and everyone will realize you’re a waste of time.”
When I read what I just wrote in that paragraph I can hardly believe it. It’s a toxic, soul-crushing view of life. Though there are specs of truth in it, the sentiment is not commensurate with reality. But you can understand that if someone is thinking that way they will certainly not want to show up at lunch. They will prefer to escape. And so I did with comments like this,
@FriendForNow “Ha! Thanks. During the alter call I was going to play Highway To Hell by AC/DC to really get people motivated confess their sins. Have to skip lunch this time. I’ve got to finish this album before Jesus comes back.”
That way I could say no to lunch and thereby avoid possibly getting my “incompetence” exposed, but maybe they wouldn’t be mad at me for not going because I gave them a few laughs. It was my way of fleeing, of not dealing with the moment I was inside of because I was afraid that moment could only get worse. And it led to nothing but more fear because I never gave anything but fear a chance to speak with me. I spent time being mentored by fear via facebook posts, the news, and a couple of similarly fearful acquaintances. Faith, hope, and love were trying to testify to me all along but I refused to engage. And since I wouldn’t go to lunch with them, they never got a chance to speak their piece (their peace?).
That’s how being an Escape Artist can keep us in a cycle of dysfunction, but it’s not the only way. While I took it out on myself and disappeared, I’ve witnessed others do just the opposite by becoming the center of attention in all the wrong ways. Is that you? We’ll find out next time so stay tuned for ROCKING IDEA #3: DON'T FLEE FROM THE MOMENT, Part 2.
Scriptures Especially for Escape Artists
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:27-28)
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. You are truly loved, enjoyed, valued.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)