Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Loneliness: A Loving Reminder

Lonely. I think we all get this way sometimes. I know I have especially for the past few months. It is absolutely true that I am an independent girl; I prefer to go my own direction rather than having to follow others. You will never catch me at a party. In fact, I am reluctant to even hang out with people I consider 'friends' outside of the work or school environment I know them in. I am very strict in defining people in the categories of acquaintances and of friends. My friends are personal, close, know a great deal about me, and on my 'talk to whenever I can catch them list.' And honestly, not many people make that list. Only recently has that list bloomed into a size far beyond what it ever has. Ironically, all the people on that list I have yet to meet in person.

I think it is only fair I admit this: I am caught in a whirlwind of culture verses my beliefs. There are so many times when I look at the lives of others with longing, as they seemingly possess something I don't have. They hang out with people at parties, and they are constantly calling one another with updates about their lives. But, most importantly, they get to see each other face-to-face all the time, a luxury I don't have. There are days when I just come home and sit down in my favorite rocker and think. I think about the life I could have. I wrestle with the thoughts of giving in just slightly to taste the lives other people have. I attack the feelings of loneliness, combating them with the same defenses I have used for years. Eventually, I give up, shove my feelings back into their box and move on with my day. I don't have time to sit and ponder the pros and cons of life with the world or life with others who don't entirely share my values. I have people who depend on me to be there and depend on me to get things done. And I need to get those things done.

A dear friend of mine broached this subject with me just a night ago, asking if I ever felt lonely. I was so tempted to say I didn't, honestly. I am the type of person that tends to shove those things under the rug and move on. There are more important things in life. But, I think the Lord has an amazing way of bringing up un-addressed topics among friends so that the person avoiding it gets to be the one that provides the comfort and the answers. And I responded with the answers that first popped into my mind, only to realize they were the words I needed to hear. See, the moment I spoke the words I did, I realized I had just switched sides. I was no longer on defense, but on offense, where I always should have been.

Loneliness is a healthy feeling. It is a feeling that reminds us that we are only a small part of this world. It reminds us that we need to fellowship with other Christians and that God works through other Christians to keep our souls alive and healthy. It is not a feeling to shy away from so much as it is one to welcome. But, one needs to approach the feeling of loneliness with the right attitude. The people who are out there hanging out with friends and attending parties absent of healthy Christian fellowship are more empty than you are without the fellowship. The activity of others is a disillusion that Satan wants us to buy into. Satan wants us to long for more and question what we are currently doing or advocating that moment. It is his job to get us to think that way. Yet, it is in these moments that we need to realize how blessed we really are. You don't have to have a whole list of people to call friends in order to be content or to have your heart filled with joy; you only need a few who love you just as much as you love them and are willing to listen to you at any point and time. You don't need to be around those people all the time to be able to truly discuss life with them or develop an even deeper friendship through prayer. The hearts of two people who pray for each other on a daily basis and truly care about one another will honestly watch their friendship grow stronger, no matter how many miles separate them.

My list of friends remains mostly online. Though the list is much longer than it used to be, it is still short. But, the fact of the matter is that every time I look at that list, I realize just how much God has answered my prayers. I had prayed for years to have people I could call friends. I had miraculously been spared the predicted path of the typical public-schooled child, who experimented in just about every area and tried to gain approval. How I ever had patience and headstrong spirit enough to endure and overcome those temptations before I was a Christian is far beyond me. My decisions to avoid those possibilities lead me to have very few friends, and what friends I did have were people searching for a way to use me for their own purposes. So, when I look at who I have in my life today, my brothers and sisters in Christ I had given up hope of existing years before, I realize how rich I really am. He has given me far more than I deserved and answered my prayers far beyond what I would have imagined.

Yet, what do I do? I forget. I forget what it was like years ago and set goals based off of today. I see my life as lacking, as lonely, as empty. And I face the same temptations and struggles I faced years ago because I allow my heart to focus on what I don't have rather than what I do have. As much as you may not want to hear this, let it be known that loneliness is not a reminder of what you don't have or what you need to achieve. That prick of destitute and inferiority is your reminder that you have more than you need because you are wanting more. We, as richly blessed sons and daughters of the Lord, have more than we need. I do not want you to compare yourself to the people out there who are in situations where they have no friends. We are not to compare ourselves to others in order to measure our reapings. Instead, we are to look at what we do have and realize how much extra we have, realize how much He has blessed us with.

See, in my eyes, we aren't all that lonely. We have a Father who loves us, many of us have family that love us, and many of us have people that care deeply about us in our lives. We are blessed with more than we need, with extra love and extra reminders of how much He wishes to pour into our lives. And yes, we will forget this or ignore it or both numerous times throughout our lives. The point is the more we learn to recognize it, the more we can take offense against it. We no longer have to defend ourselves from the attack in listing all the friends we have and counteracting all the statements our hearts tell us. Instead, we can simply smile and say "He has blessed me beyond measure" and thank Him for the reminder. This life is too short to spend our days worrying about our social life. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. And with that calling comes the most satisfying days we could ever wish for. Live in them; dwell in them; love them.