I was thinking recently about the changes in my life over the past year. The first four months of the year were very busy and scheduled. I remember thinking that if I had a lot of activity it would get rid of my feelings of loneliness. It obviously didn’t because I wrote several posts about feeling lonely. Reading Jennie Allen’s book Nothing to Prove recently helped me to see that keeping a full schedule was the way I tried to numb myself from feeling lonely. I thought if I had a lot going on, I wouldn’t have time to be lonely. The only thing it did was keep me from facing my loneliness, allowing it to grow deeper while I kept it pushed back into a dark corner.
Being honest and admitting my loneliness was a good first step. But I was trying to find an external reason for my loneliness. I believed the lies that there was something wrong with me keeping others from inviting me to do things, that I was too much or not enough or just too normal/boring to be noticed. At one point I thought that maybe if my family had some huge issue or need, then people would see us, see my loneliness, and do something about it.
In May, God asked me to trust him with my loneliness. He asked me to set down my impulse to schedule things with people and allow him the opportunity to meet my need for connection and community. I set aside the month to see what God would do. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a few invitations from others. Not as many as I would like (I think I was still trying to stay busy to numb my feelings), but what I needed to be reminded that he is faithful and he cares about and for me.
I chose to continue to pare back my schedule over the summer and fall months. I have enjoyed not being so busy or rushed this fall. It has allowed me some spontaneous engagements and more time at home with family. I am also being reminded through this process that my worth is not determined by my accomplishments or achievements. I have often felt like doing less meant being lazy. But we need rest and refreshment and refusing to make time for both of those is not being a good steward of my body and health.
I am choosing to trust that there is a purpose in all of this. I have no idea what the big picture is, but I am enjoying the small things I am learning and the ways I am changing and growing. No, I don’t enjoy the waves of loneliness I feel but I am learning to turn toward God rather than away, which is my enemy’s goal.
Recently, my mentor and I talked about my struggle with loneliness. I was telling her what had been going on with our family and she noted that I have had a good amount of social engagement recently. I admitted that it’s not very challenging to get together with others. My frustration tends to stem from feeling that I have to shoulder the responsibility of organizing events and people. I wonder if it’s the enemy twisting my perspective to keep me from having community. Yes, I may have to ask people to do things with us, but most of the time I receive an affirmative which should be a sign that my company is enjoyable. And what’s wrong with being the organizer (as long as it is not completely draining)?
My mentor had more positive thoughts about my struggle. Perhaps the acute feeling of loneliness exists inside me in order to prompt me to reach out to others who may also be experiencing loneliness. I notice that not many people seem to invite others and perhaps they are too busy or also hearing internally that their presence is not desired or are fearful that their invitation will be rejected. Perhaps this thing that I lament can be the impetus that leads me to the community I so desire.
I have a friend who has organized her own birthday gatherings the past two years. She said she loved spending time with friends and would be disappointed on birthdays when she didn’t engage with others. She thought, Why not be in charge of my birthday agenda and invite my friends? It’s what I want and I know it’s worth it to put forth the effort.
This should probably be my perspective. And it is, sometimes. This spring I think I was just worn out and coming out of a season of too much work and not enough rest.
I am still swinging back and forth between trusting God and feeling contentment, and feeling lonely and left out. Perhaps this will always be a cycle for me. At least I know that God will always be with me and is able to provide peace and encouragement. I will place my hope in the belief that good will come from all of this and it will be to God’s glory.