My mother died in 1988, and for a year I daily reached for the phone to call her. Then, the desperate truth would again clutch my soul. The loneliness, in tsunami fashion, pushed forth tears, and along with them, the realization that our earthly phone line was permanently disconnected. Jokes about doing dishes together, chats about her flowers, or my questions about canning, gardening, sewing or her hand-written recipes all circled in my head. Mundane as these topics were, I closed the mental drawer on them, feeling the loneliness of the severed cord.How could I face the thousands of stories, laughs, tears, even arguments that would probably bore anyone but mom and me? Wallowing may keep pigs cool, but it does not serve humans well.
Enter loneliness, a word not found in the concordance of the ESV, NASB, or NIV Bibles. The word lonely, however appears three times in the ESV, and four times in the NASB and NIV.
Let us consider two examples of the word. The psalmist uses “lonely and afflicted” (Ps 25:16). Additionally, the following simile paints a word picture that is all too familiar: “I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on a housetop” (Psalm 102:7).
Most of us experience loneliness when pain, suffering or grief enters our lives. It stabs with a searing reality of glass shards on our theology of this world’s brokenness. Broken, yes, we believe that. But the depths of that pain come from a deeper darkness than we’ve previously imagined. We cry out with all generations over an emptiness that sits in the pit of our heart and gut.
What helps us deal with these feelings differs somewhat from person to person. Yet, I believe the Lord uses people and places to help us in these thunderous moments of solitary silence.
As we age, we begin to lose those who know us best. On good days, I make the effort to meet people beyond my immediate family. From book and garden clubs, from walking and yoga groups, from choirs to cruisers, from Bible studies with kids to volunteering in the community, from art classes to computer courses… people with similar interests or those with merely a willingness to try something new, help us alter the narrative of us, our grief or pain story. No new friend needs our life story when we meet. Now new topics expand rather than contract.If you physically can’t, or aren’t emotionally ready, to get out of the house yet, alter your view. Someone you know may paint your bedroom. After my last major back surgery, Beth Smith repainted, repurposed and reorganized the master bedroom around the hospital bed that would be my world for four weeks. Cindy and Todd Bauchspies even did a mini concert for me from the hall outside the bedroom!
Find a way to get outside if the weather and your mobility permit. An amazing world or beauty and order can greatly help bring some peace to the internal chaos going on inside. While no single activity or scenery change is a magical panacea, each step forward staves off a bit of loneliness and may help another fellow struggler.