THE LONELINESS AND BEING ALONE FACTORS
John 14:16 NLT
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.
(for my friend, R.F. who is experiencing loneliness)
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Sometimes those factors can be blurred. One can be alone but not lonely. One can be lonely but not alone.
When I was young, even though my sister and I had each other for companionship, I would really miss my friends during vacations from school. As a teenager and in my early twenties, I kept hoping for some guy to pay attention to me. I didn’t want to be an “old maid” as they called it back in the day.
Even at the university, though I didn’t consciously let myself think about it much, I often felt lonely. I would try to be part of conversations I heard. I would just show up at someone’s dorm room. I would spend time in the “common room” where we listened to music and talked.
I was convinced not only that having a husband and children would alleviate the loneliness, but also that I was not worth much without a guy. I did not regard myself as a person in my own right until later in life in widowhood.
Through the years, I have often been excluded from social activities outside of school and home. This included church. Although I knew that the main reason for attending church was God, there was a part of me who hoped for companionship there. (Interestingly enough, my second husband and I met in church choir when our respective choirs merged for a Thanksgiving special.)
I sometimes felt like an outcast. I like to get together and have fun with people so I tried inviting people to various activities but usually the only people who showed up were other blind people. I longed to belong.
If I were young now, I would feel very uncomfortable with people texting quietly while supposedly spending time with me. I would wonder how I could ever have a guy friend or become married to him and not to the phone. They wouldn’t really be there with me. They might even think I wouldn’t know, since I couldn’t see them texting. But guess what? Texting has a sound; not a very loud one, but a sound nevertheless.
Not long ago, I had someone cleaning for me who sat one day doing nothing, so I thought, until I moved closer to her and I heard that familiar tapping. That was her last day of work for me.
If someone constantly texted back and forth, called others or answered calls during what was supposed to be our time together, I would feel neglected. I would feel like their time with me was not important; that the phone was more important than me.
I don’t know how people really, honestly, communicate with each other now in any truly meaningful way.
I remember one time years ago when we were visiting our parents and I had a headset on, listening to music or reading an audiobook. At one point mom said “Aren’t you going to join our conversation? You won’t be here very long and we want to see you. You can listen to your headphones at home.” I felt somewhat ticked at first but then I realized it was a compliment. My parents really wanted special time with me and how could they if I was disconnected from them?
The same goes for God. How can we have much of a meaningful connection with Him if we are on the phone, or, as I am guilty of, being on the computer sometimes for hours?
How do people hear and participate in the worship service if they are back there texting to each other and to friends who are not even there at church?
Jesus is a gentleman. He is not going to force Himself on us though He does give us opportunities to be closer to Him. He is patiently waiting for us to want to communicate with Him.
I am not, as some Christians are, against smart phones, computers, and the Internet. As a blind person, these inventions have actually been a Godsend to me. I have much more access to information now. It is much easier for me to do my writing on the computer where I can add, delete, copy, paste, and otherwise rewrite which was not possible before the advent of the computer.
I used to write my first draft in braille. I often tore the pages apart to put paragraphs in the proper sequence. I also used note cards to put the text in order. I would write the final draft in braille and then type it on the typewriter. Later on, by the time I was in college, I would read my braille copy onto a cassette tape and type my print copy from the tape. This was an improvement. I did not feel lonely or alone when I was working on writing projects.
For me, included in my computer time is the ability to stream Christian music, sermons, and read the Bible itself online. Therefore, I am giving Jesus His time, to some extent, on both my laptop and my iPhone.
I remember as a young adult really disliking the whole apartment concept or even having a home of my own. I really preferred dorm life and wished there was a way to be in, not necessarily a commune, but some cooperative living arrangement where I was not alone.
Having a husband, a daughter and cats helped me a great deal, however, at times I still felt lonely and separated from my family. When Jim and I were married (my second husband) he was often in the hospital so I was left alone. Thank goodness, I was with the cats.
Now that I am a widow and I have moved quite often, starting anew with strangers, people will rather often ask me “don’t you feel lonely? What do you do to combat loneliness?” Their questions surprise me somewhat because I really no longer feel alone. I have Jesus constantly with me, which changes everything.
I have my cats who are PURRfect company and I usually have Christian music playing in the background at home. I have my table mates and we have grown quite fond of each other without there being anything romantic going on. I actually feel relieved that I am not dating or married to some guy with issues or bothering a guy with my issues, for we all have them. I no longer think I am less of a person without a man.
I feel more of a person with the love and grace of God. I say this not to brag. I say it hoping it will encourage someone out there who is still feeling great loneliness. I think it is important for people of all ages, to be aware that the loneliness factor has a cure. That cure is Jesus.
No, I am not living happily ever after here on earth. I definitely have my trials, especially by way of medical issues. The difference between then and now is that When I am not around my cats or other people, and I start to feel separation anxiety, I have occasionally heard myself ask “Jesus, where are you?” as if He isn’t here. The separation anxiety dissipates almost immediately when I realize I am mistaken in feeling anxious about being alone. I have even laughed at my rather absurd question.
The loneliness factor is mostly based on our perception of whether we are, or are not, in fact, truly alone. If we focus on being alone or lonely, that is what we will notice. If we focus on not being alone or lonely, that is what we will notice. Jesus is with us constantly, but it is up to us to allow ourselves to notice His Presence or not. Sometimes we are so distracted by worldly stuff going on in our lives that we lose focus and then the feelings of loneliness flood into our attention. When we remember to call on Jesus He is there.
After years of not feeling very close to God, coupled with (pun intended) feeling cut off, afraid I would never find a mate, I no longer feel that horrible anxiety of my earlier days. Back when I convinced myself that I was less of a person or less fortunate if I did not find a mate, the anxiety and occasional depression would mount. I would sometimes become convinced that I wasn’t good enough for any guy; that I was a failure if I didn’t have a guy.
You have no idea how relieved I am now that the fact of the matter for me now is that I am glad I don’t have a guy to distract me from Jesus. If He were to bring the right guy into my life, sure, I would accept it. But I can honestly say that I am just fine without one.
When I hear of all the struggles married and sometimes not married couples are having, I am glad I’m not dealing with that stuff anymore. The tears, the anguish, the misunderstandings, sometimes not knowing what to say or not say, feeling like I was walking on eggshells, or treading on thin ice–all of this is so stressful and frustrating.
When people talk about being older as “the golden age,” I’m not convinced of that, given all of the physical issues I’ve dealt with. However, the guy thing being absent in my life really seems like a blessing to me now. I’ve been there, done that, and that’s it!
I have guys around in my life and I enjoy that but I feel free not to be tied down by getting romantically involved with any of them. They are my brothers and friends, and I actually value that more now than I ever thought I would.
Those who knew me when I was young, the girl who always had a boyfriend in tow; The girl who was popular with the boys at the school for the blind; the girl who was destined to get married someday and have a family; I really am glad I experienced it all. The tears were sad. The arguments were scary. The love letters were great–both writing and sending them and receiving them.
The affection was great. Being watched all the time by the adults was embarrassing. Long-distance relationships did not work well for me. Writing poetry or songs about a current guy was fun and creative.
When the first marriage ended I vowed never to have a relationship with a guy again and I remember my pastor saying “Never say never.” And then in five years, Jim came along, totally unexpected. This was a quieter relationship and very good, in spite of medical issues mostly on his part.
When I broke my ankle and was hospitalized when Jim was slowing down; and when Jim passed away in the hospital two days after I came home, I thought my life was at an end. I had no idea Jesus was waiting in the wings for my attention. I didn’t know He would rescue me and bring me into a relationship totally different from the human ones I’d known. I realize now that if I were all caught up in the soap opera of a human love relationship, I might not give Jesus the time of day. Being free to be in that relationship, unencumbered by the guy thing has surprised me greatly, for I would not have predicted it. I assumed that I would be both alone and lonely as a widow. This is simply not true for me. I thank Jesus for His gift of helping me be aware of His Presence and focusing on the reality of my not being alone. I absolutely am not lonely or alone. I wish for that for you, too. In Jesus’ name!