When I think of being alone, it's the silence that makes that feeling a reality. It's the absence of discourse that forces you to be painfully aware it's just you in a room. Even when a room is full of people, and there is chatter in every crevice, if no one is speaking to you, it's the same as two strangers sitting on a park bench. They are alone, but together.
I've experienced several kinds of silence in relationships. There was a silence where words weren't needed: a smile, a touch, a nod, a furrowed brow, or widened eyes. Even the subtleties of body language were an entirely enjoyable and understood conversation.
Then there was silence where no words were adequate to explain what was happening. All I knew was the silence became deafening, and anything said would have cued an avalanche. That type of quiet makes you feel alone, misunderstood, unheard and completely disregarded, all while next to someone. It's that silence that makes two people start questioning the intent and sincerity of every word and action.
I've also experienced self-induced solitude. The kind that comes when you start cleaning the emotional closet. Categorizing people based on how they regard you or lack thereof. But there is no loneliness like being alone in a room full of people. There's no alone like walking into an event holding hands with someone you've just had a thirty-minute car ride with, quieter than the night before Christmas. It makes me wonder how is loneliness greater in an overly connected world? Or is it worst knowing that you're never alone, even when you always feel like it? And is silence and loneliness interchangeable?
All by Myself
When I think about myself, there are several moments that I am silent. Sometimes I simply don't feel like talking. Too, what's happening doesn't warrant a response. Meaning I refuse to give energy to it. Or, I'm exhausted of saying the same thing over and repeatedly. I'm reminded of the moment when you asked your parents for something, and it felt as if you were all but invisible. They don't answer you, and you walk away with no reply.
Now, as an adult, I realize their disacknowledgement meant one of three things; I've answered this question before, I've told you no already, or you know full well what you're asking is outside of the perimeters already set. Which, of course, reminds me of the silence that can occur when you're petitioning God. It has to be the worst, but is it? Here is where the paradox of our silence and loneliness collide.
If it is true that we are never alone, why does it feel this way? Do we always need noise to indicate exchange? If that's the case, noise is more counterproductive than it is useful. I have a friend who every time I talk to her; I can't hear myself think because her TV is so loud. I often have to say, "Ma'am, please turn down the noise!" She, however, is immune and isn't phased by the blaring sounds. Meanwhile, I can't focus because there is an interference in our conversation.
Where is God, we ask in our moments of desperation. Why hasn't He answered yet? When will He say something? Why won't He, at the very least, acknowledge receipt of said petition? But is it that He hasn't answered as much as He's not screaming? And maybe, just maybe, you need to turn down what's around you to hear Him? Could it be that those hard and lonely seasons are the moments God uses to fine-tune your hearing?
Seasons of Loneliness
You already know I love parallels and also like to show you that no problem you encounter is strange and new. To the Bible.
Hagar is the poster child for the plight of the single parent (read Genesis 21). 'Cause, what we not gonna do is act like there ain't a whole slew of deadbeat mothers out there. But imagine you were minding your business and in waltzes, your boss who says, "Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding!! Hey, Chica Bonita, today is your lucky day! My wife consents to let you and pie like me have a baby!" For all intents and purposes, we'll glaze over why you might have agreed to this, but let's say you had no choice. Then homeslice turns around, fires, you and banishes you and ya 'lil pickney off to some remote island! Why? Because the son you had mocked the son wifey had. #whyyoubeingweirdtome
Lesson: Loneliness can happen when the thing you produced develops a sense of entitlement. AKA you bite the hand that feeds you.
Both the man with leprosy (read Matthew 8) and the woman with the issue of blood had been isolated due to circumstances beyond their control (read Mark 5:25-34). Nothing like some public scrutiny to make you feel like an outcast. In those days, both of these conditions were considered unclean, and they were basically shunned.
The Bible doesn't say how long the man had leprosy, but any woman today would not want to fathom just oozing her guts out for 12 long years. Seven good days is more than punishment enough. I believe today's cancel culture pales in comparison to the bible day dragging an unclean person would get. Not only were these folks scorned, but they were also broke too. #doublewhammy
Lesson: Loneliness doesn't always happen in isolation; sometimes, it's on display. The good news is, so will be the restoration.
In terms of social isolation, Joseph's story has to be one of the saddest ever told (see Genesis 37-50). It's one thing to have a little sibling rivalry, but if all the siblings' band against you, Houston, we have a problem. Poor thing is sold into slavery and then later imprisoned for not being a boy toy to an old cougar. I don't suppose it was as glamorous as it is depicted in Joseph: King of Dreams. His story of loneliness was in preparation to save not only his family but a whole nation. That was a heavy burden for young shoulders.
Lesson: Even if you have the right theology, you can still come to the wrong conclusions. Choosing to honour over dishonour won't always give you a favourable outcome.
Elijah was out there calling down fire from heaven in the smackdown before there was WWE! It was Team Elijah (backed by the Trinity) against 850 Prophets of Baal & Asherah. Now you know you a G when you can call down fire, on wet wood surrounded by water, soaked four times over. To show them who was OGIC (only God in charge), God not only made it rain like a flamethrower, but He also killed all 850 prophets. #lightsout
Now, after all that! I mean pure demonstration of 'He talks like that 'cause he could back it up' one chapter over, this same dude goes on the run because the hussy they call Jezebel threatened to kill him (see 1 Kings 19). Now imagine that. You just #slewdem got it #litty, and just like that, some heffa cause you to retreat. However, the wilderness experience wasn't all for naught. It was where Elijah rested and was fed by an angel. #selfcare
Lesson 1: It's where God reveals Himself to you, not in the hullabaloo but in His still small voice. God spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper. (see 1 Kings 19:11-18)
Lesson 2: After your lonely season, you should be ready to pour into someone else. (Elijah then found Elisha)
Lesson 3: Your lonely season gives you the rest and replenishing you'll need to speak into someone's most blessed season. (The widow and her son)
Jeremiah was a prophet called by God, and boy, wasn't it a lonely call. Known as the weeping Prophet, Jeremiah was forbidden to marry and thus had no wife and no children. All I'm saying is you would cry too if it happened to you.
Even though Jeremiah was called to speak words of repentance, those he was serving often rejected that message. Rejection of the only thing you've been called to do, you have got to be kidding. Believe me, no need to envy anyone; you were not built to carry someone else's load. As I told you before, rejection triggers the part of the brain activated when the body has experienced trauma (accident).
Lesson: Your call to lonely places means that your message is so strong, it probably won't always be well-received; the fewer people connected to you may be more beneficial to them than you.
A look at David's life demonstrates that loneliness can recur. First of all, David was in the field tending to his sheep. Had Samuel not been insistent, David might have missed the moment of his anointing as king. His initial entrance to the palace was by invitation. Yet he was hated for what he brought to the table and had to flee from Saul, the person who he came to help and had sent for him. #thenerve Needless to say, all those isolated moments of worship and time spent with God in the fields and in the cave, David still turned around and did the opposite of what he knew to be right.
Lesson: Loneliness prepares you for where you're destined to go. But if you don't often return to the lonely place, you'll get distracted, and someone else will have to complete your intended mission.
Even Jesus went through a period of loneliness, both in the garden and during the height of his suffering on the cross. However, Job has to be my most relatable story of the lonelies. Lonely because of loss. Lonely while in the company of others, who tried to sway him to question God. Contrary to popular belief, there are levels to your relationship with God and sometimes He doesn't show up because you've surrounded yourself with people He doesn't have an intimate relationship with. #whoalloverder
Lesson: Seasons of loneliness is not a test to see if you trust God but how long you'll trust even when the closest person to you doubts Him.
Lonely won't Leave me Alone
Loneliness is an indicator of a more profound matter. It's usually the signal you need to draw closer. Humans are created for connection. While that pairing isn't always to the masses, God Himself said it's not good for man to be alone (see Genesis 2:18). I'm sure many of us have taken this out of context and have cemented ourselves with people that should have been temporary rather than clinging to Him, who is eternal.
After one night of a good time, everyone can't be your friend. Just because your 'friend' knows where you work or all your baby daddy drama means they know you. This also applies to people who often call upon the name of the Lord. Because you know all the names of God doesn't prove you know anything about His nature.
Some people cannot handle the entire essence of who you are! Letting them access all your amenities won't serve them if they can't appreciate what that entails. Joseph's brothers hated him for things he had no control over, a coat, his dreams, the affection of his father. All along, I've said loneliness, but most times, it's not so much that you're lonely (emotional) as much as it is you are alone (physical state).
You should perhaps evaluate your roster. Everyone can't be trusted with 'all' of you. One of my pastor friends puts the analogy so plainly. Not everyone is qualified to access all levels of you. You have yard friends, porch friends, living room friends, kitchen friends and bedroom friends. Just as not everyone is permitted behind the veil, some folks should not be invited into your intimate spaces. People allowed in these areas should be able to handle the sight of your imperfections and not think any less of you.
Show me the Meaning of Being Lonely
You are not alone in your loneliness. The witness of these real people from the Bible testifies to the reality of our experiences. Sometimes lonely has a purpose and sometimes loneliness is the solitude you need to get away from the noise. Think of it this way; monogamous couples don't wish for an audience during intimacy (do with that information what you will).
Imagine this, it's you and God, alone on a park bench, and in the moments of silence and aloneness, He wants you to talk to Him. He wants you to be alone together with Him. This is when you'll develop your love language with Him: a smile, a touch, a nod, a furrowed brow, or widened eyes. The subtleties of body language or the whimpers of your groans become an entirely enjoyable and understood conversation.
So I said all that, just to say this one thing that Confucius said best: "A seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with a huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation is quiet. This is the power of silence...grow silently." (Fades to black add credits)