Hey Friend, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite feeling; loneliness.
As I trolled into Mass today by myself I had to shake this annoying voice in my head whispering, “you’re alone and no one loves you. If they did they’d be here with you.” Crazy as it sounds it felt TRUE. Only because I think the devil wants to try and do two things, namely, get me to not go to Mass, and make me doubt God loves me.
There’s a reason to be alone. Lots of reasons. Good reasons.
I shook it off because God says I am loved when I can’t feel a thing (thanks, Lauren Daigle). I have loving family members at home, friends I can call anytime, and community that prays for me when I need it. The voice is nonsensical, really, but the depths of the loneliness are real. Anytime he can the devil will make you think you’re abandoned, not necessarily alone. These doubts are real, and on a personal level, if my life could tell any story it would be this: being alone taught me how to be brave.
I always wanted to do something courageous for God.
“God let me do something crazy so people can be inspired! Your will be done!”
*me thinking I’ll get a job in a third-world country or work at a non-profit*
No, I don’t have to move to Calcutta and start my own ministry. No, I don’t have to be a martyr and create my own suffering. No, I don’t have to try harder to put myself out there at social events. No.
“Be alone and rest here. It’s one of the greatest things you can witness to others at a time like this.”
It makes some more sense now and becomes clearer every time I actually let myself think about it. Continuously encountering others and hearing their stories, their worries, their fears, their plans, shows me how discontent and restless we get at the expense of feeling alone. When I ask anyone what their biggest fear is, whether it be a student or a friend, the universal fear centers around one worry, “I’m afraid I’ll have no one in life…. I’ll always be alone…..no one will love me….”
To make sure we never feel loneliness at it’s gut-wrenching core we run to social media every 10 minutes, text & snap chat all day (sometimes without words or topics of conversation), FaceTime every moment, smoke weed when you want a taste of euphoria or peace, endless phone calls when your driving, AirPods NEVER leaving the ear, girls or guys who ALWAYS need a romantic partner, party every weekend and drink incessantly, watch shows & movies, on a loop, in the background of your work all. day. long.
The best sin the devil has playing in American culture (in my opinion) is making us humans think we always need to be busy, stimulated, entertained, and preoccupied at every moment of every day. Wake up as last minute as you can (cause you were up all night binge watching a show) and running your whole day around this anxiousness and you find yourself keeping up with your own mind. (Forget the Kardashians, we can’t even keep up with ourselves, ya know?) With that, keeping the meme game alive on your phone, of course. Generally, never prioritizing time for solitude or self-care whether it be a workout, a prayer session, meaningful conversations, or a meal alone.
My story is a story of a lone wolf. I look back on high school and college and see a girl who everyone loved and respected, someone everyone liked being around. Heck I could be friends with any social group. At the same time I look back on a girl no one knew. No one knew what made her laugh, smile, cry, or if she was even excited for the future. No one knew what she went through everyday or asked her, “hey how are you?” A girl who spent time being there for others so much that when someone came through for her she didn’t know how to thank them. Even daddy’s bear claws came out every Sunday morning (after hearing my weekend plans) and his angry face repeated, “I’m tired of everyone using you for a therapist.”
In response to sharing this with a friend one day he looked at me and said, “it’s truly a miracle that you’ve kept the faith the whole time.” Jaw-dropped I looked at him and said, “that’s all I have…” He thinks I owe it to myself to be mad at God. He thought that a loving God wouldn’t let an “innocent” person find herself in so much loneliness. Clearly, this friend doesn’t read his Bible. First he’d see Adam was alone for a while before he was blessed with Eve. He’d be more shocked to see that this God chose to live in a world where he himself knew he was going to be rejected and lonely (so lonely that he sweat blood over it), and still died for people knowing it. A God who takes what is ruined at the expense of imperfection and makes it beautiful, makes me beautiful.
I see friend groups who have stayed strong and made memories together from kindergarten until now. I’ve watched my friends grow closer with other friends and left me hanging in the dark. I’ve heard about beautiful people who marry their high school sweet heart and still watch how strong that love still is. I’ve seen people, without question, spend days—weekends—at their friends houses and never leave. I watch my siblings and I grow up and make our own friendships and not see each other as much around the house. I’ve seen and heard so many men and women fear breaking up with a long term relationship they don’t want anymore but are too afraid to stand on their own.
I’ve seen a lot of people live the way I don’t when it comes to relationships.
The answer to my life is simple. It’s not some sugary optimistic self-help enlightenment in “learning how to be content alone!” or blessed assurance in “hold on to hope, it gets better!” cause those things are NOT possible. Ask my parents about all the hashing out I do to them because of it. Being alone is a cross I am called to carry. If the God of the Universe suffered it, chances are I will too. If I could meet a boy and be in a relationship, I would. If I could find some friends to stay up until 2 AM with everyday, I would. And this wouldn’t be a cross if I wasn’t throwing up all my vulnerability to write this. Admitting loneliness sucks is not a weakness, its a matter of fact.
It’s a call to bravery.
If I didn’t decline parties every once and a while, I wouldn’t have the self-control I have now. If I didn’t become so selective in who I date, I would not have been as emotionally dependent on myself as I am. This intimidates people. Most people don’t know how to “handle me” because I have confidence they never found (their words, not mine).
I’ll have you know, the other end of this epidemic comes with isolating myself, and not going out because it’s uncomfortable. So, believe me, there are times I one-hundred percent need to go out — I am human — but overall, the real answer to being content, no not just content but over-joyed with my loneliness, is simple. So simple that all of humanity over-complicates the reality of human nature that was already panned out for us, that already shed it’s blood for us. The reality is, I have kept the foundation of my life, all my priorities, in something true, something pure, in a treasure I found that was worth balancing every other part of my life around: his name is Jesus.
When people perceive loneliness as a sad, tragic reality, it messes with you. Even one of my sweet grandfathers last sentences to me was, “I just don’t get how your not on a date every weekend?” The world doesn’t understand. People pity me right and left when they see me alone and never think, for one minute, there is something to be learned and valued with it.
If this article isn’t for you, than it’s not. Like I know most of you reading this have deep relationships and friendships centered on Christ so keep going. Believe me, don’t try to make this for you, if you didn’t feel your heart shatter and move itself into a personal challenge to be brave and be alone in your own life, then you are well. If calling someone on FaceTime until you fall asleep and waking up to see the phone still connected is what you have than cool. Just promise me that if you do have it, and it’s well, tell that person how much you care about them.
My life continues to prove to me that running a retreat or a mission trip for others, for God, is easy. Being with your significant other at church and in social scenes is a piece of cake. Being alone with Jesus face-to-face, that’s the heavy lifting.
Today I put on a new dress that made me feel like a model (a dress that I told myself I’d wear if I go on a date soon) with cute shoes and I went to church without thinking something miraculous should finally happen, a.k.a a cute boy approaching me and it being happily ever after from there. I was present with Christ. I did it for Christ. It was, and always will be, for Him. I thanked Him with my presence, my full attention, and a cute dress and just, BY MYSELF, embraced the love He always gives. His friendship, his mercy, his kindness, his bravery, his voice calling my name is enough.
Completely exposed in vulnerability before him knowing he (like my friend pointed out) can control my situation and fix it has allowed room and time for him to look at me and declare me beautiful. Have you had that yet?
You know, he even tells me that when I’m giving too much energy to something else, I awake his jealous love. Ha. Who would have thought?
He chose me for a time such as this and to hear him tell me that, to spend time with him alone, to know his plans for me are well and good and that my loneliness is not a punishment is quite frankly the most amazing thing I have ever encountered on this side of heaven. It is an anchor that grounds me when the world tells me I am a loner & odd-ball.
I have no idea where my life is headed. It’s crazy to even think the faithful companionship of a man and eventually a marriage might not even be in my plan for another five or more years… or at all. For a long time, that was a pill not worth swallowing, even if it is false. I know the same is true for many others, so truly the only thing worse than swallowing that pill would be Jesus’ love failing me. But witnesses of the last 2000 years testify that he has never been known to let you down and so far in my twenty-three years that has remained true.
“I hold this treasure that the surpassing power may be of God and not from me. I am afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in my body…. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:9)
He will never go away. That, more than an attempt at a faithful marriage or deep friendships, will suffice and be enough. Some things are out of my control in life, and there’s always a strength and depth-defying ounce of courage to be exercised.
And I hope you all bravely choose to participate in that reality, too.
The lone wolf