"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:16 (NIV)
It may be hard to believe, but loneliness has been a constant companion for me for many years. It causes me to ache inside, sometimes, bringing tears to my eyes and a longing for community. I yearn for like-minded kindred spirits-- who also "like" me!
I love having close, intimate friends who "get" me; those who know all about me with all my quirks and petty sins, and still love me. I also enjoy being with friends who are passionate about the Lord, ministry, the Word, and family--who have ideals like mine, but who also love to have fun and celebrate life. My close friend must be someone who understands grace and giving grace, who has learned it by going around the track of life and by being humbled. There are not, in my intimate life, many who fit this longing and who also initiate relationally, as I think this is a lost art!
For much of my life, I have felt so alone, invisible in my needs to the world of hundreds of people who buzz in and out of my life. Isolated from kindred spirits. Probably some of that feeling comes because I am too busy, and some because I hold ideals that are in a minority in this culture. But as I sit here tonight, I thought since I have felt loneliness so often through so many years, you might, too; and I wanted you to know you are not unusual or alone--there are many of us in the same boat!
In a world of isolationism, breakdown of families for every reason--moving all over the world and being separated physically, divorce, differing ideals, and just plain lack of commitment--there is personal isolation in crowded neighborhoods. Rarely does one find the simple community of people who hold your values and your faith. Add to that isolation in church, and prospects for friendship can be bleak indeed.
Yet, I realize it has been this very loneliness that has driven me to the Lord. He has heard me over and over again and He has used this longing to open my heart to others who have needs. Increasingly, He has used it to humble me in my point of need, so that I have more compassion for those who are also separated from support systems.
As a matter of fact, most of what I write about has come from my struggles. This particular puzzle of my life has brought with it choices: to live out in grace and faith or to live in the darkness of depression. Choosing to believe in God's goodness, has been for me the story where I saw a God who loves me and shows me life and grace and light in the midst. It is through choosing to seek Him and to hold on to His hand and to believe in His friendship that I have found strength and a way to keep going.
I also know so many young moms who struggle with loneliness during long days in their own homes with their little children. One idealistic young mom cried with me last week, saying, "I just went upstairs for four minutes to put away the laundry, and when I came downstairs, my three year old had used a permanent marker to draw all over the naked body of my 18-month old and then draw all over my favorite blouse--and the carpet! I thought to myself, 'Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Take care of these children? Stay home by myself and do this day in and day out? Am I not more talented than this? Will I never have a bigger life?'"
I giggled at her story about the markers and yet, also felt what she felt. I personally knew her feelings, as I'd had the same ones when my 3 oldest were all under 5!! This mama is so cute and fun and intelligent; it's just that she's carrying her ideals about family life and children in a circle of friends who don't understand her or support her in a 24/7 life of constant demand.
So I just wanted you to know today, that you are not alone. God indeed loves you so much and is so very proud of your bringing life and beauty into your homes. He knows your struggles. He sees you and your need to be loved and appreciated and filled up.
However, now in my 60's, I find there are gifts that loneliness brought to me--and see that God was trusting me to learn wisdom because He was with me every day of my loneliness. God did not design this world to be isolated, but He created us to have community.
Please do not think I am talking about being super-spiritual, because I am not. But, because God cares about how I feel, he turned it out for my good because He understood my feelings and sympathized with the needs I felt in this fallen world. These are a few lessons I have learned.
1. Humility--that I cannot make it in life alone just by toughing it out. I really need God and I need others to help me to make it.
2. Compassion, instead of judgment of others. Understanding the needs of others because of my own deep needs.
3. An acceptance for others who were not just like me. It was the kindness of friends who were different than I was that made me appreciate the friends I did have. When someone showed me kindness, I was so ver appreciative whether we were the exact same or not.
4. Thankfulness came to me slowly when I learned to have gratitude for those God had given when my pride might have kept me from friends who were different. These friends became treasures because of their steadfast, loyal commitment over many years. I no longer required that my "friends" be just like me or have my values. Tolerant grace and love grew inside my heart.
5. Contentment has come over many years. My spiritual muscle has grown and I am so much better able to fill my life with beauty, meaning, purpose, work and creativity to hold me through all my days. I have quite learned to deeply enjoy my own inner-self and my own company and to find sweet peace when I am alone.
I am still a lover of people at heart and adore being with my "besties" when it works out. But, I have made peace and beauty my world as I walk one day at a time. Maturity takes a lifetime, but God can be trusted to walk with us and to build exactly what our soul needs to survive, if we seek His love and rest in His company.
Of course, if I could, I would have you all into my little living room right now for tea, scones and chocolate. But as it is, I am going to pray for you. You must be a conductor of your own symphony and make a plan to place some pleasure, times with people, outings away from the messy home and sequestering with too many sinful children and one weary mom in one small place. Going to a park, create beauty, go out for a one woman date in a place you enjoy, or just anywhere will change your mood, ease your soul.--just don't stay and stew where you are! In time, loneliness will shape you to look more and more like Jesus when you walk through it hand and hand with Him.
Do you feel loneliness is a big part of your life as a mama? What might the Lord want to show you in the midst of it? What can you do to reach out to another lonely mama to begin shaping a friendship that will last a lifetime?
Grace and peace to your hearts today.