DANGEROUS THEOLOGY PODCAST Episode 015 - Prepare & Ponder

Away and up a hill.

by Tony Creech on Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When I was young, reading about Jesus journeying around Judea with his followers and then randomly going off alone up a hill always seemed so awkward.

I know we all need alone time, but being divine seemed to be the kind of thing that might clear your head without you needing to withdraw.

I’ve heard said that he was going to be with his father, but that further confused me (still does) and I could only imagine them quietly playing chess or Jesus trying to pretend that he wasn’t one with God and needing to “update” someone who was already everywhere and knew everything.

I’ve heard said that he was leading by example and showing us that we need to take time away alone, if not to get beat at chess by the Lord, at least to spend time thinking or praying in quiet or something.

Theologians would argue that he was as much man as he was God and that surely, like the rest of us, he needed to stop being needed by others and to stop answering questions or signing autographs in front of his hotel. Like Brad Pitt or Dustin Hoffman, he’d need to don some sunglasses and get away from the crowd to buy a couple groceries or read some Whitman without every jogger in the park taking a picture.

If we constantly revision God and his appearance in Jesus into our own limited personal perception of him, I certainly am doing that when it comes to getting off alone up a hill. I’m a disconnecter by my nature, and read him as such.

Box me up into a personality type, or label my tendencies, and you may see an expressive introvert or an extroverted disconnecter who needs frequent alone time.

I thrive on chaos, possibility, and freedom. Plans land like cloaks over my free days and bleed out my peace. There are some folk who are the exact opposite, who need plans to find peace. For myself, when something is planned for a day, whether fun or foul, it dries up a bit of the water in my soul (our souls, like our bodies are mostly water…. Says me). Since most things in society need to be planned, I have a very dry and empty soul most of the time.

The presence of ‘others’ means responsibility and expectations.  Those things choke me out. I love company. But more shoulder to shoulder than eye to eye. Those who’ve attempted conversation with me and found me extraordinarily talkative might be surprised, but those who’ve lived with me have faced an intensely anti-social beast. They met the tony that locks himself alone in his room at a party he’s been planning and looking forward to for months.

If I don’t get enough alone time I freak out and couldn’t enjoy the most awesome thing I could possibly look forward to. I become a grump, or mean, and biting, and impatient and actually a fair bit like my friend Luke if he doesn’t eat every three hours. I can forget to eat all day and be happy, but don’t let me stay constantly connected to other people if you don’t want to the lava to pour out of the volcano.

So… Being married is fun. And so is having a 2 year old…

I’ve lost any sense of alone time.

But I’m totally not grumpy, exhausted, or anything of the sort (LIES).

Luckily I did pre-engagement counselling and had my wife learn from someone trustworthy ( i.e. not me) that some of us need connected eye to eye time and some of us long for shoulder to shoulder time.

We each wrote out our “perfect imagined day” together and 90% of her day was eye to eye connected romance and 90% of mine was indirect shoulder to shoulder sharing of space but not attention. All my activities were stuff like hiking, reading our own books within feet of each other, and both working on something in the same room.

Loads and loads of disconnectors feel guilty for needing to disconnect. Especially when they are outgoing and everyone thinks of them as being funny, engaging, and the life of the party. Because I can lead a conversation, when I’m needing to be alone and have my space, others see that as relating to me not being happy with them.

It’s not something you can get over. You can’t stop feeling a certain relational stress and expectation from being around others, if you’re a disconnector. You just need to go up on a hill.

I don’t truly suppose Jesus was necessarily a disconnector like me. I’m not sure the point of the inspired literature on him that the impoverished Christians went through great lengths to preserve was to teach me his personality type, or to help us disconnectors feel better about our desire to get away.

But, I also don’t think it’s too much a stretch to realize that we all, at some regular time in our cycles, need our time away up the hill. Of course, we all need to connect and we all need to disconnect and if you’re like me and heavy on one side of that, you shouldn’t feel guilt for inviting God to a chess game or needing to stare at a patch of dirt until your stress levels drop.

Someone I read once related it to being a cup of murky water, that remains murky confusion until you let it sit and sit, untouched, and gravity finally pulls the bits to the bottom, leaving the water clear as the sky.

Perhaps some of you feel stress rising and rising until you connect well to the few you connect to, and you aren’t bothered by the constant presence of others because you keep yourself hid away inside yourself most of the time anyhow. I live my life on the outside, maybe too much, and need to pull away for the mud to settle.

And so, a day before Christmas Eve and family and people and others and the great wonderful group that will cause me to desire to run away to a basement to pretend sickness so that they don’t judge me for reading a book instead of talking it up constantly. Tonight I’m pulling out, to be alone. With no commitments, or need to engage. To let my murk drift down, and my grumpiness to dissipate, so that I can meaningfully give and share Christ’s-Mass (who also went on a hill to rid himself of murk) with those I want so desperately to enjoy.

See my leaving up the hill as an act of love, so I don’t bite you and pass the pain on to you instead of leaving it with God at the top of the hill or the bottom of the glass.


Tony Creech
anthony thomas creech is Founder of Citadel Magazine. He's a marketing executive, filmmaker, screenwriter, columnist, and university lecturer on film, audio, media, and faith. You can find him at thecreechleague.com