We were both wearing sweaters, hopeful in the shift of Fall apparent in summer’s bounty left strewn and withered on the lawn. The sun radiates overhead, I pull my sleeves up and look down at her tawny boots, void of scuff marks as we walk on the narrow sidewalk. I didn’t realize she was freezing on the inside until we walked into the church.
We stop in the foyer like being sprung from the end of a rubber band and stuck on the floor, unaware of the crowds gathering for Sunday worship filtering like ants around us. She tells me she had a hard time coming back from a trip. How she couldn’t find reasons to return to an empty house, a job she didn’t like, no family nearby. She went on to describe the loneliness. Friday nights at the gym, eating dinner and watching a movie alone, week after week. A rare invitation for dinner with a friend, cancelled at the last minute.
I ask what is keeping her here in our small seaside community. “I know I’m supposed to be here,” she says nodding her head. “Maybe I’m trying too hard to make it work.”
And even though I’m married with two kids to share life, she describes how I’ve felt many times since moving away from long-term friendships and family nine years ago. A silent phone, empty calendar, leaving church lonelier than you came; there is a difference between knowing people and being known by them.
God created us to be known.
Sometimes He takes us through a season of isolation to understand that.
Loneliness Has Purpose
Like wallpaper stripped away after years of use, He reveals who we are underneath, during seasons of isolation. Reveals the scars still open, the glue that we counted on to hold everything together, the cracks in the foundation we couldn’t see with that façade in the way, the one we got used to looking at and barely noticed anymore.
Most of what we find there, it’s way beyond our capability. And that’s the point. Instead of hanging new paper on the old wall, He wants to do something different. And the only way to know what that is, is to trust Him for the outcome. Because He wants to know you will be trustworthy to do the work.
While loneliness lies in the hollow whispers of inadequacy and needing to know why, Jesus invites you to scoot in close to Him, partake of the view on the veranda. He’s pointing out the future. And when you see it, it won’t matter that it doesn’t match the color you picked out for the wall.
(For biblical examples on the way God uses isolation in order to learn the deep lessons of life look at the lives of Job, Paul, Habakkuk, Elijah, Moses, Jesus, Joseph, and Jonah.)
Over the next six weeks we’ll explore answering the question, “How do you walk out your faith in the midst of pain, loneliness, disappointment, and suffering.” We’ll sit around the community table of this blog and hear stories from Tara Pohlkotte, Deidra Riggs, Danelle Landry Townsend, Darrell Vesterfelt, Kelli Woodford and others that help us see Him more clearly through our struggles. And we’re inviting you to join us on Thursday for Redemptions Beauty Book Club, a community discussion on the book Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor.