"As Christians, we are called to convert our loneliness into solitude. We are called to experience our aloneness not as a wound but as a gift--as God's gift--so that in our aloneness we might discover how deeply we are loved by God."
~ Henri Nouwen ~
I am an introvert. I draw my energy from alone time. I often find being with people draining and overpowering. I withdraw to recharge.
As a kid that need came out as crippling shyness. It caused me to not engage people at all. I did not understand the balance. So, often, I found myself lonely, feeling left out and resenting the kids that could easily make friends. For this child aloneness was not a gift, it was a burden. My family lived 10 miles from my nearest friend, so looking back it probably was a gift that I did not *need* to be around friends constantly since I could not, but I needed to learn how to be a friend. Oh, I made it work for me. I buried myself in books and writing and studying. I dreamed big dreams. I became an independent thinker. But I missed out on the pure joy of sharing my life with a playmate.
As a young adult going away to university, that need for aloneness began to be a gift. I was in a great group of Christians on campus that emphasized and taught about being alone with Jesus. The being alone part came easy to me, so the addition of using that to develop my relationship with my Lord was refreshing. I was beginning to find a balance--developing a core group of Christian friends while being able to retreat into myself often. I still chose not to be involved in lots of the campus activities--shyness kept me away. But the benefit was time to study, lol. God honored that time, and began to really teach me that He had made me to need solitude. So I was able to see the gift.
As I've gotten older, the solitude has been more and more of a gift. Since we have moved a few times, that ability to be alone has made the transitions easier. I am able to ease into relationships. But I am comfortable when it is just God and me, so I carry that with me. What many people call independence is actually a contentment with God. That is not to say that I don't get lonely, I do. Several months ago I went through a desperately lonely time here. I wanted a friend with whom I could share where God was working, what God was doing. And, I just wanted someone I could *hang out* with and have a good time. It was during that time that I had some serious confrontations with God. I was honest that I loved my time with Him, but I really wanted a flesh and blood pal as well. I poured out my need to Him and in return He helped me realign the balance. He showed me that I was lonely because I was chasing people rather than chasing Him. He blessed my need for friends to spend time with. But none of those relationships are as deep as I begged Him to give me. Instead, I have gone to a deeper level of sharing with Him. In the aloneness and in the honesty, He gave me the intimacy I was so desiring. That, for me, is the heart of Henri Nouwen's quote. It is when I am alone with God that I am most honest with Him. And when I am honest with Him, He is able to give me the desires of my heart; because in that time I learn that my heart's desire is just more of Him.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:3-6
Aloneness is a gift. We can open it and embrace and learn from it. We can revel in the time with God and His Word. Or we can reject it, and chase after busyness and people. Chasing after others instead of God is what leads to loneliness--that need of someone in our life rather than trusting that Someone is our life.
Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of aloneness. Thank you for using that time to mold me into your vessel. Thank you for the contentment you give me with the person you made me to be. And, thank you for the friends that you bring into my life to share with and play with and reflect with. May we sharpen each other into your likeness. Draw me into your Presence. Help me to desire the intimacy of a relationship with you. Always remind me that You are my Life. In those moments when I allow loneliness to cloud my perspective and I believe that another person can alleviate my discomfort in being alone, remind me that it is You that I need above all else. In your Precious Name I pray....Amen.
Our hostess for In Other Words this week is Christine at Fruit in Season. Please follow the links to see what others are writing. I trust you will be blessed!