I have been reflecting lately on a topic that I believe affects all of us at one time or another - loneliness. One of the things that I have learned, and seem to continually learn, is how hard it is to live in loneliness. I think that one of the hardest lessons in life is how to learn to live in our loneliness.
I think about some of the people that I have encountered in my life that have a hard time being alone. From the guy who goes from relationship to relationship because he doesn't want to be lonely, to the girl who will put up with the guy who treats her horribly because she doesn't want to be lonely. I understand their battle, because I think one of the scariest things to experience is that time when you are home all by yourself, with nothing but an empty night staring ahead at you, until the hour comes when you should go to bed and all you have to look forward to is the repeat of the cycle again the next day. There is an emptiness there that reverberates in it's own silence. And even if you fill it with the noise of the television or music, the loneliness is still there, knocking on your heart.
Now, theoretically, community is supposed to alleviate this emptiness, this loneliness. And it does to a certain extent. The love and support of a real community surrounds people and provides them encouragement and support in times of pain and hardship.
And there is a lot of pain in this world and a lot of hardship. The book that I posted about previous to this posting, The Hot Zone, is chock full of stories of hardships that people have experienced that I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. I cannot imagine being an Afghani child-bride beaten close to death, or a Palestinian girl blinded by a tear-gas container shot by Israeli soldiers, or the Israeli coffee shop worker who's body was burned by a suicide bomber, or what it is like to have my limbs torn apart from my body by land-mines placed near my home by militant groups in Colombia. But the thing that connects all these people is that in spite of the horrendous things that they have endured in their life, they are supported by their communities in a real way. There are people that live and walk with these people through this pain. But.
But, I still know that in spite of the communities that surround them, I am certain these people still experience a level of loneliness that connects them to me. Our basic humanity connects us and helps me to understand at a very small level what that pain must feel like.
I also think that one of the lessons that has been hard for me to learn lately is that though I love God and I know that He loves me and He blesses me with His unfailing and enduring love, loneliness still remains. And while I wonder if it will ever truly go away, I don't think that it will. We can surround ourselves with things, people, get married, have families, have friends, live in community, go to church, have our quiet times, and in the midst of all that, loneliness can still rear up it's head. I can run and keep myself incredibly busy and stressed out with life and work and friends, but I think it is all an effort to hide from loneliness. Because when I have a weekend to myself, like this past weekend, I find myself going crazy and slipping into despair.
And maybe that is where God wants me to go. Maybe He wants me to experience despair and loneliness so that He can dispel the falsehoods that surround it and remind me of the Truth of who He is. Perhaps the reason that loneliness never goes away is because I need it to remind me of where I should be looking and where I should be bringing my pain.
I don't want the people who read this to pity me or feel bad that I feel lonely, because that is not the point. The point is to recognize the pain of loneliness that lives in every person's heart is one of the things that helps make us all human and allows us to identify with any person that we meet - be it that donor in the front of the church, to the homeless person on the street who stands in the back, to the friend dealing with an unimaginable life situation, to the people half a world away experiencing a life and hardships so different from anything that we can even imagine.
May God give me the grace and self-confidence to continue to live in my loneliness and embrace it, instead of denying and masking it, so that it allows me to minister to every person that I meet. Because in the end, I know that the depth of what I feel lies also in their heart.