The Bad Company Loneliness Keeps

I’m playing “Name that Feeling” again. It has been over 6 months since I moved from California to Virginia. When I realize that it’s already been half of a year it’s surprising. I’ve been gone quite a chunk of time! I’ve been here long enough to call this home. Gulp. The novelty of this experience and this area has not worn off, but the truth that I’m here to stay has sunk in. And the loneliness that comes with leaving your people and investing in new people has sunk in too.

But loneliness, ironically, is not a feeling that stands in solitude. That’s why I’m playing “Name that feeling”. Imposters have been trying to keep my loneliness company.

I’m realizing now that I have to be careful with what names I allow to associate with my loneliness. Disappointment is definitely not a good companion. I have been disappointed. Disappointed with the effort it takes to stay in touch with far away friends. I’ve gotta tell you, the spirit named Disappointment has childish and selfish expectations. I need to own my loneliness rather than blame it on others. Disappointment becomes a poor excuse for wallowing in loneliness.

Another sidekick I’ve been tempted to allow to hang out with my loneliness is Unloved. Gratefully, I can quickly dismiss that fellow as a lie because the truest thing about the people that I shared life with in California is that they have loved me well. Their love deserves the dignity of being trusted. I sure do not want my friends expecting me to prove my love for them after years of loving them. But Satan likes to keep Unloved in his arsenal and poke me with it every now and then.

I knew when I moved here that I would have to face the reality of being dispensable. I knew that life would move on for my California friends and the feelings that would come from moving would be mine to experience alone.

And yet another crony that whispers in my ear is Insignificant. Insignificant likes to tie itself to the rather humbling Dispensable. As much as I fooled myself into believing that I was comfortable with dispensable being a reality of the human condition, my pride has still been hurt by it.  Because, I’ve been wrongly interpreting dispensable as a verdict on whether I’ve had impact in the lives of others. The wonderful truth is that having a positive impact for Christ is present perfect. Our past has present consequences. Praise God!  But geographical distance does limit us in sharing our lives. Generally, we just can’t have the same consistent impact in far away friends’ lives; nor they in ours. There are exceptional relationships; but they take exceptional and intentional effort.

There’s another dangerous champion of Loneliness. It may seem like the definition of loneliness but it is not. This deceptive fellow is named Alone. Ah, I’ve reached the crux of the matter. Loneliness naturally comes and goes and challenges us to rise up with courage and fix our eyes on Jesus. The truth is we may feel lonely but we are never alone. Like all painful feelings, loneliness can only be redeemed by the One who is Truth.  Jesus will never abandon me. For in him I live and move and have my being. I am not alone. And neither are you.

Look at the gang of thugs I’ve just busted! When we’re lonely we can be attacked by imposters named Disappointment, Unloved, Insignificant, and Alone! The only way to fight these liars is with truth.  I disappoint, but that doesn’t make me a disappointment.  Friends disappoint me but that’s not the truest thing about them. I am not unloved. You are not unloved. I am not insignificant. You are not insignificant. We know all of this is true because our creator was not content to leave us alone!  We know this to be true because of the loving lengths Jesus went to rescue us.  We know it is true because of the One Jesus chose to leave to always be with us: our comforter and guide, The Holy Spirit.

If we make these truths buddies of our thought life, and choose to not associate with what is false, we’ll have the strength to do whatever it takes to triumph in seasons of loneliness.*

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39

*I’ve been lifted out of loneliness when I talk it out with Jesus, worship, choose gratitude, step out into the passions He’s given me, choose to love and serve others.  (Taking unneeded naps and eating ice cream in excess haven’t proven as helpful).

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Year of the Ear

As I sat in the waiting room to have a CT scan of my ear I thought the ever optimistic expression, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another”.  It later came to me that working back in time, I could say I’ve had the Year of the Ear, the Year of the Back and Neck, the Year of the Ankle, etc.  I have a friend who is an over achiever.  She’s crammed a variety of pain into less than 4 months: kidney stones, surgery for a cut that became infected, and surgery to put a plate into her wrist that was broken in a fall. She shares the tales of her medical history with an unflappability to be admired.  I on the other hand, am flappable.  I get irritated by any physical hinderance to being free to do as I please!

All together now!  “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.  Nobody knows my sorrow.”  The inappropriateness of my song choice does not elude me.  I know these are the lyrics of an old spiritual song sung by slaves.  They knew pain and an inability to do as they pleased on a magnitude that makes my physical ailments on the level of a tiny splinter.  The spiritual continues,

Glory hallelujah!
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down
Oh, yes, Lord
Sometimes I’m almost to the ground
O, yes, Lord
Although you see me going ‘long so
Oh, yes, Lord
I have my trials here below
Oh, yes, Lord
If you get there before I do
Oh, yes, Lord
Tell all-a my friends
I’m coming to Heaven!
Oh, yes, Lord

Which brings me to the subject of hope.

When my thoughts grumble, “if it ain’t one thing, it’s another”, I’m giving into a message of hopelessness.  Making a habit of an “if it ain’t one thing, it’s another” attitude is like changing the above lyrics to “I’m always down, no sometimes about it”.  And there certainly wouldn’t be any room in my spirit for “Glory Hallelujah!”

This old spiritual is a lesson in hope.

Hope comes from of a lot of Glory Hallelujahs:  God be praised, He’s given me reason for rejoicing!

Hope comes from a truthful perspective:  sometimes I’m up, and sometimes I’m down!  Sometimes that down is long so.  Sometimes it takes me to the ground.

Hope comes from the promise of a painfree future:  I’m coming to Heaven!

Hope comes from being loved by the One who created us.  Remember the beginning of this spiritual?

Nobody know the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow

Well, some renditions change the words to –

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus

Jesus knows my one thing after another(s) and the good that will come because of them or in spite of them.

A loving friend who has an ear for Jesus, sent me this word of encouragement not knowing I was sitting in the waiting room for my CT Scan.

“Imagine a person totally committed to your best interests, devoted to seeing you flourish, fighting for you against all enemies, determined to eliminate everything destructive from your life, attentive to every detail of who you are, never thinking of himself at all but only of you. That is Jesus in relation to us all—sacrificial in his life, sacrificial in his death.” The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge

Now, this is hope! Life lived in the hands of Jesus. The One who is committed to my best interest.

Do you think it would alarm anyone if the next time I’m in a doctor’s waiting room I shouted, “Glory, Hallelujah”? I think I’ll at least try to think it.

Hysterical…ahem…Historical Sites

Something mysterious is happening at the historical sites, streets and parks around us. Well, not really mysterious. It is all over the news and my daughters are participants, but it looks mysterious! Seems like everywhere I walk, people are looking down at their cell phones. I know, that’s not mysterious or even unusual. But they are showing up in really large numbers individually and in groups. And they are displaying an unusually tense and focused demeanor. Or, in more lively displays, they’re calling out frantically to their group, “There’s a Zapdos over here!” I’ve looked over their shoulders and I’m telling you that there is no texting or social media involved. It’s a craze on a magnitude I’ve never seen. You guessed it: “Pokemon Go”.

It’s living up to its name. It does get players to GO. They go to murals they’ve never noticed, river front parks that they’ve missed out on in the past, city statues that have been overlooked, and even National Monuments. Apparently hundreds have found their way to the FDR memorial late into the nights. It even motivates them to go to church. Albeit, it may be outside of a historic church to catch a pokemon next to a beautiful statue of Mary.  (Is that sacrilege)?

I’m prone to look at the positive side of this crazye. Gamers are not sitting alone in a dark room consuming mass quantities of pizza they had delivered. Gamers are going on long walks! They even lift their heads from time to time and articulate comments such as, “Wow, I never knew this was here”. They even – get this – talk to each other! They talk to friends and strangers alike!

This craze does also bring out the uncharitable side of me. This week, when I walked to two different parks along the Potomac I wanted to yell out, “Wow, what a gorgeous night! Look at that view!” and see just how obsessed these gamers might be. (Really, you should have seen the view). I also wanted to cheer for the young people playing volleyball in one of those parks. Which reveals my bias that they were taking positive advantage of their surroundings while the gamers were glued to little screens.

The more I write about my sitings, the more I’m realizing that there’s no real justification for judging here. (There is justification for judging, with outraged horror, those who have played in sacred sites such as the Holocaust museum. But I won’t go there because it’ll suck all the fun out of this particular blog post). Back to the parks, city streets and monuments. There are all manner of pastimes. I’m spending quite a few hours of my week watching the Olympic coverage on TV. I’ve been known to play solitaire. No more examples; you get my gist. So, why judge?

It’s way more fun to observe! Think of it. Imagine people from the past taking a time machine that pops them up at Waterfront Park in the historic city of Alexandria, Virginia. They look around and the strangest site is not the amazing structure of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the background, nor the tour boats going up and down the Potomac, nor the towering hotel being constructed across the river, nor the odd clothing of the modern day people around them. The strangest site is groups of young people, parents and children, and lone individuals looking down at a small item in their hands, swooping their finger over it and then moving to another area of the park to repeat the ritual.

“Pokemon Go” has even provided entertainment for those of us who don’t play the game: watching gamers. Will they, or will they not, see what I’m seeing on these beautiful summer nights? Let the games begin!