Category: Culture and Current Events
Make me lonely,
So I can be Yours.
‘Til I want no one
More than You, Lord.
--“Keep Making Me” (Sidewalk Prophets)
Loneliness. We don’t want it.
So we fill our lives with friends and activities.
Which doesn’t work.
Like every other desire on earth, nobody can satisfy loneliness. Our spouse will still not understand us after 50 years of marriage; our best friend will fail to be there for us at a critical moment; our church will deeply wound us. We will go to parties and wonder, “Where do I fit?” We will hang out with our family and ask “How am I related to them?”
Henri Nouwen says, “When our loneliness drives us away from ourselves into the arms of our companions in life, we are, in fact, driving ourselves into excruciating relationships, tiring friendships and suffocating embraces” (Reaching Out 19). He continues to say that “our world is full of empty chatter, easy confessions, hollow talk, senseless compliments, poor praise and boring confidentialities (21).
#1 Emptiness brings peace.
Before we can find meaning in relationships, we first have to face our inner turmoil. We cannot expect others to fill that need. We will experience lack this side of heaven. Nothing we do will fix ourselves. No human friendship can heal our pain. No amount of busyness can make us measure up. Henri Nouwen says we need to quit running away from our loneliness and “accept it as an expression of the basic human condition.” (The Wounded 99)
Strangely, it’s only after we’ve met our emptiness head on, that our loneliness is forgotten. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that unhappiness is usually caused by unmet expectations. Peter Stearns, a social historian says, “the insistence of being happy makes it possibly harder to achieve because it automatically jacks-up expectations.” (Mohler). When we don’t have the unrealistic expectation that we will always be perfectly satisfied with our relationships, then we are free to enjoy what we do have.
In Amy Carimichal’s poem, she writes about a man who tries to forget pain, to crowd it out with busyness, and to avoid it. Finally in the last stanza, he finds peace:
“He said,’I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain.’
Then did the turmoil deep within me cease.
Not vain the word, not vain
For in Acceptance lieth peace”.
#2 Solitude deepens relationships.
As we confront the silence in our own hearts, we develop our own identity and a greater depth. “Just as words lose their power when they are not born out of silence, so openness loses its meaning when there is no ability to be closed (Reaching Out 21)”
Additionally, it is through our solitude that we meet God. "The mystery of God's presence, therefore, can be touched only by a deep awareness of his absence." (Reaching Out 91). Elisabeth Elliot echoes, “...in our sorrow, He gives us Himself; in our loneliness He comes to meet us.” (Loneliness 36). She calls us to “turn your loneliness into solitude and your solitude into prayer.” (127)
This does not mean that we don’t need community. In fact, we desperately need the catholic church. God, Himself is Trinity, lives in perfect communion.
But relationships are more fulfilling when you expect less from them….and bring more to them.
Nouwen says, “Without the solitude of heart, our relationships with others easily become needy and greedy, sticky and clinging, dependent and sentimental, exploitative and parasitic, because without the solitude of heart we cannot experience the others as different from ourselves but only as people who can be used for the fulfillment of our own, often hidden, needs” (Reaching Out 30).
The solution to loneliness is not to try to fill it with busyness, social media and forced sharing. Despite what society tells us, busyness does not equate importance (Making All 24).
Instead, we will find community and friendship when we have first embraced the very pain we used to run from --loneliness.
Works Cited: Carimichael, Amy. Poems Etc. God's Riches at Christ's Expense, n.d. Web. 24 July 2017. Elliot, Elisabeth. Loneliness. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988. Print. Nouwen, Henri J. M. Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1981. Print. Nouwen, Henri J. M. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Garden City: Doubleday, 1975. Print. Nouwen, Henri J. M. The Wounded Healer: Ministry in a Contemporary Society. Garden City: Image, 1979. Print. Sidewalk Prophets - Keep Making Me (official Music Video). Dir. Sidewalkprophets. YouTube. YouTube, 08 May 2014. Web. 24 July 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwYv6yMuPaA>. Stearns, Peter. "The Dilemmas of Happiness in the Modern World — A Conversation with Social Historian Peter N. Stearns." Interview. Audio blog post. Thinking in Public. Albert Mohler, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 July 2017. <http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/11/26/tip-peter-stearns/>.
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