When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned
and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2
A month or so ago I read – I don’t remember where anymore – that within each of us is a core of loneliness. I wondered about this for a couple weeks. Is it really so? But then I forgot – until this week. Thursday I was listening to the notes I recorded on the drive back from the Church of the Resurrection in September. And there it was.
I believe almost all of us have a yearning to connect deeply with others. This yearning leaves us receptive to all sorts of things – some good, some not so much. It opens us to the idea that God loves us and longs to be part of our lives. It leads us to find friends, partners, and spouses. It draws us into community. People sometimes have kids thinking it’ll fill that empty place in them. It leads others into dangerous or abusive relationships – and keeps them there – because they’re afraid they’ll have nothing if they leave.
Are they the same thing – this core of loneliness and this yearning to connect? I don’t think so, but I only know my own story. Does every person live with a core of loneliness? Does the blazing extrovert who recharges in a room full of people and has “never met a stranger”? How about the one who has a twenty minute conversation on the phone, then afterward says, “Wrong number”? I realize that some people don’t explore their own inner workings enough to find what's at their core. And even if some found loneliness, would they acknowledge it?
I only know that it's at my core; I’ve known at least since I was twelve. I always assumed it was just me. I was the shy one with few friends who would be in the corner at just about every gathering, incapable of small talk but secretly longing to be included. Fifteen or twenty years ago, I learned the term Dysthymia when it came along with my mild ADD diagnosis (which I’ve since learned was off just a bit.)
So I’m not a good one to ask. But I am a good one to wonder. After my 2008 interview with the District Committee on Ministry, they suggested I consider going to seminary because – as the chair put it – I have an insatiable curiousity. (He was right.)
Do you have a core of loneliness at your center?
If so, what do you do about it? How do you live with it? And how is what you do working for you? Although loneliness can be unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It can lead us out of ourselves and into connection with others. Then maybe we can appreciate the quiet time when we’re alone without feeling like we’re missing out.
If loneliness isn’t part of your core, what is? If it’s a helpful thing, how do you cultivate it? If it seems unhelpful, do you have ways to turn it so it can be more useful to you?
One person’s path is not another’s. We each have our own journey with its own roadblocks and detours. Still, when we have community, we can be there for each other, and I believe that’s our whole purpose. Take care.
Don’t fear, for I am with you;
don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you;
I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. Isaiah 41:10