After discussing the loneliest nation on the planet in yesterday’s post, I thought it might be time to finally give you a peek into my own personal battle with loneliness. And I say “peek” for your own well-being for I fear if we plumb too deep into the psychosis that is my mind, we might not make it back out or least not unscathed.
And as always when you enter into a dangerous activity, a few disclaimers first. I have friends, I think. At least I did before I started this 31 day journey. We even do stuff together on occasion. But friendship and loneliness are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One can and often does exist in the presence of the other. Especially for introverted prophets (but I get ahead of myself). I do not share this piece of myself so that you will feel sorry for me or even offer me your comforting words of pity. No, instead I just hope for a little understanding and prayer, of course. And perhaps those of you afflicted with my condition might find encouragement in the truth that we are not really alone. However much it may feel like we are.
You see, God, in His infinite wisdom (and I like to think a little bit of omniscient orneriness), decided to make me a girl. A girl who would rather throw the football around than paint my fingernails. Then He chose for me the spiritual gifts of prophecy and teaching with only the slightest touch of mercy (please pray for my girls). Oh, and just to make things really interesting, He said, “Let’s make her an extreme introvert with a passion for restoring community to The Body & the broken places of the world.” And that took care of that. And it was good. And not a mistake. Only it has taken me years and a bit of “therapy” for me to realize that it is okay to be me (more on that later in the story). But even knowing that He delights in the way He created me and rejoices over me with singing, it is still hard most days to be me.
You see, I can feel completely alone in a crowded room. Small talk makes me want to throw up in my mouth. It is just that difficult for me (I know my friend also named Misty understands this). Which means I come off as snobbish sometimes. But I’m not snobbish just a social pariah. Oh, but you say, you are always hosting people at your house and “visiting” with them. Watch closely, people, and you will see that I have exactly two settings: smart a** and silence. My social skills were best designed for use in a classroom full of teenage wanna be ganstas. Because they get sarcasm, heck they shower in it. (And, I miss them dearly). Yes, I am either cutting you down, harassing you, giving you a hard time, or I am squeamishly awaiting someone else to rescue me from the claws of chit chat. Trash talk, not small talk and we good.
Or, if you want to sit down at the table with me and discuss how we might storm the gates of hell and take back what belongs to our King. Or Piper, Tozer, Manning, Nouwen, Wilson, Miller, Lamott, or Father Tim perhaps? Well, then we good too. Not a lot of middle ground with me. Oh, I can fake it for a while but most likely little pieces of my soul are dying. It’s not that I don’t care, I just honestly have that much trouble relating. To people. Which translates into most people feeling like I am too much. Or, at least that is what I have heard my entire life.
That is until about year ago. When I embarked on a long journey with Steven & our missions pastor at church. After which for the first time in 39 years, I finally felt like I didn’t have to apologize for being who I am. Where words like, “you are intimidating, too deep, too much, too passionate, too in love with Jesus” (what?), no longer defined me. Where being a woman with the spiritual gift of prophecy no longer crushed me (at least not all the time). And I was freed to rejoice in my creation. To celebrate my gifts and my story and release myself from the expectations of others and their hurtful words telling me that I should just be somebody else.
Oh, it is still lonely. And, on occasion, I still beg for him to remove this “thorn” from me. To let me write about rainbows and unicorns instead of justice and brokenness. Because let’s face it, nobody lines up to pay to hear what Jeremiah and Isaiah have to say. I mean, who invited them to the party? Killjoys. It’s not popular to be the voice crying in the wilderness. And it can be really heavy sometimes. Like all of the times. Yes, I stay awake at night trying to figure out how we can end generational poverty or at least get more people to be willing to enter into relationship with our impoverished brothers and sisters. For our own good, not just theirs. Because make no mistake about it, the privileged gain more from fellowship with the poor than they ever gain from us. In reality we have so little to offer them even though in our arrogance we believe otherwise. (And there I go again. Cornflabbit!).
But I wouldn’t trade those sleepless nights alone with Him for all the community and human connection that I keep talking about. In the end (because in the beginning) it is Him. And only Him. And I am grateful for the affliction that He has chosen for me because, “he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
From A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,
“The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His Godgiven instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God… His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek God in what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd – that Christ is All in all, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life’s summum bonum.
Two things remain to be said. One, that the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul – who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tell his griefs to God alone.
The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the broken-hearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world he is all the more able to help it.”
So, do me a favor, will ya? Fill up the awkward silence hanging between us and I promise that I will join you when I find my footing back here on earth. Of course, I’m probably gonna make a snide comment about your hair (just ask Ashley V or Melissa B), but we’ll take what we can get. Right?