I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness lately.
Maybe loneliness isn’t the exact word; it’s more like alone-ness, solitary-ness, the life I now live largely by myself.
This is not to say there are not others, for there are many of those. There are the friend-others (new and old), the adult children-others, the church family-others, the others in my classes and neighborhood and online.
But the fact is, none of these people actually abide with me full time, and even though I live where I work and work where I live, the place where I shut the door and rest my head is population one.
Perhaps I have been wrestling with this for some time now because it never used to be this way. There was always the husband, the kids, the couple-friends and their kids, the sports families and extended family; there were cook-outs and gatherings and meals and hockey road trips, and when these dear ones began to fall away, some for good and some just losing their constancy, I found myself in my own head far more than was comfortable.
At first, I suppose, it was the death of expectation that caught me wildly off guard. No one plans to live this way; even God declares that it is not good for us to be alone.
Gradually, though, with the subtlety of a tide, I am becoming okay with just me, because I’ve found in the steady silence of my only-me space a quiet and insistent voice that promises that no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, He will, They will, always, always, always be with me.
I am never truly alone.
Father, Son, Spirit: the trinity is a model of the communion we are to enjoy with one another, whether we live in a noisy, crowded house or by ourself.
This was true as I climbed Mt. Cardigan this September.
New students and faculty, student leaders and various other mountain devotees all awoke at 4 AM, boarded buses clutching cups of coffee and nervous calculations, and drove to the trailhead parking lot to watch the sun rise.
It’s a wonderful school tradition, and the adults and boys soon spread out along the 1.5 mile trail-to-the-top, forming small clusters around the wise ones who came prepared with flashlight or headlamp. Towards the summit, I somehow found myself in the lead, a pack of athletic boys baying at my heals, until we reached a place where it was safe to let them sprint the final stretch.
The experience could not have have more different than my solo August assault. It takes a long time to get scores of boys in various shapes and shape up a mountain, and a small community began to form on the ridge as we waited for everyone to arrive. It was lively and communal as boys from different countries draped themselves in their native flags and waited for the show.
Boys who may have felt untethered and unsure at the bottom found their places in shifting circles until at last we all sat down to watch as a new day and a new school year were birthed in the red-balled dawn.
It’s nearly impossible to feel lonely when surrounded by such unabashed joy.
I think what it comes down to is that we have a choice. I have a choice.
I can shut my door and lock others out, or open my heart and invite them in.
There are so many-many to love.
The promise is for us all.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).