Reflections for the inner life.
When a child is born into an environment marked by an enduring food insecurity, he/she learns to live with the hunger pains as if they are a normal somatic body sensation. Like a hunger pain, loneliness is a similar feeling that lets us know that we are hungry, that we have a need to connect with ourselves, another person, God, or any combination of the above.
As our world embraces social distancing as a new norm, we are able to curb (or avoid) those feelings of loneliness. When we feel the ache of loneliness we may be tempted to not take the time to listen for what kind of loneliness is showing up in us. It would be very easy to feel lonely and to simply interpret that loneliness as only a need for others when it very well could be either a longing for one's self or even a desire to be with God and God alone.
In our modern world, whenever we lose access to our technology for more than an hour, we often experience a similar somatic body response akin to a hunger as if we were missing something we "needed." A friend of mine shared when his kids lose access to their screens they often respond as if they are literally running out of oxygen. At some point their brains recognize they did not actually asphyxiate. Not only do my friend's children need time to detox from their screens but he reports, like many families who institute digital sabbaths or sabbaticals, eventually his children express a resistance to digital re-engagement.
I share this now because we have been effectively forced into a unfamiliar form of social disengagement. We've being called into a more solitary form of life for a season and for many folks it's incredibly destabilizing. One week of this feels sort of great, like a glorified stay-cation, and it does not destroy our financial bottom line nor feel particularly lonely. We may even say things like, "this is just the kind of break I've been needing anyways." Two weeks of this cut off from others starts to pinch a little more and our deeper more hidden loneliness begins to register as a form of social starvation.
We are now entering EIGHT WEEKS of this new normal. Zoom meetings now dominate the social landscape and have been an amazing resource for helping connect groups of people together. Even with the many tech inspired tools for connection, people are going stir crazy for actual human contact.
In the month of April, our counseling practice offered nearly 200 online counseling sessions collectively. In March the number of online counseling sessions was probably more like 20 collectively. We, too, had to adapt to the moment in order to insure continuity of care for our clients who desired to continue meeting. As we reopen our physical office, clients are reporting feeling grateful for having two options for now.
As social restrictions loosen and you move back into familiar places and spaces, I want to take a moment to advocate for you to also continue leaning into your own personal resistance to be alone with yourself. Silence is a powerful force for our good when we opt into it and willingly listen for what comes up in that quiet (but often very noisy) place.
Your loneliness is not a curse. It's necessary. If loneliness is uncomfortable, that could be an indicator of some internal resistance that needs to be processed and explored. Do not be afraid of doing some deeper listening.
Theologian John Calvin kicked off his Biblical commentaries with a fantastic invocation..."there is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self. And there is no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God."
May you resist the temptation to surrender your loneliness too quickly. Dig deeper. Dig longer. Dig wider. As an old miner might say, "There's gold in them there hills!"
Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly.
“Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut you more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few humans and even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight has made my eyes so soft, my voice so tender, my need for God absolutely clear.” -Hafiz
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