It’s a good thing I’ve named this year’s blog “Forty Days Returning,” because it’s provided me with the opportunity to revisit some of my earlier writing, as kind of a barometer check of how I’m doing. Tonight the posts seemed to be focused on loneliness, so I thought I’d offer a piece on the feeling of being lonely. I believe that every human being has experienced at least one moment of loneliness, when they feel disconnected from other humans, from other beings. And so please enjoy the following reposting.
The Next Forty Days, Day 21–Only the Lonely
“Some people have never been the lonely kind
Never called a friend in the middle of the night
Just to hear a voice say, “It’s okay…”
~ Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Sudden Gift of Fate”
I wonder if Jesus ever got lonely. He’d have to, I would think. I mean, here he is the son of God, with all the weight and needs of the masses of people who followed him boring down on him. Who could he talk to about this? His disciples were somewhat lumbering dunderheads (remember, this was before Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came down on them and imbued them with some sense) who didn’t comprehend half of what he did or said. He could hardly confide with them about the worries on his mind. What would they say, “It’ll be alright, Lord?” Um, no. His mother perhaps would have understood a little better, after all, she too had a couple of supernatural, otherworldly kinds of encounters with angels and such. But no, she couldn’t fully understand either.
How lonely it must have been for him to want to talk with someone, another human being whom he could sit with, whose eyes he could look into, who would totally understand what he was feeling. Sure he had a connection with a non-corporeal “heavenly father,” with whom communication was probably instantaneous, but Jesus was human and likely in need of another human whose physical presence could offer tangible support. I don’t know, just speculating here.
I’ve had plenty of times in my life when I’ve been lonely. Recently I had an experience that was not traumatic in a conventional sense, but was difficult nonetheless. I was at a meeting where a lot of information was being shared that all seemed to push one emotional/psychological button of mine after another. By the time it had ended, I was in some kind of emotional overload. At that moment I don’t think I could have listened to a single other thing, certainly not about work and some of the topics we were dealing with at the meeting. I knew I was overloaded, and a little exhausted after not having slept well (yet again) the night before. I was in a state and I needed to talk to someone about what I was feeling. And right then, I felt like Jesus. Well not exactly like Jesus in the whole son of God sense, but in the sense of not knowing whom I could talk to about what was bothering me.
I went down through the list of people I could call who would understand the issues I was confronting, but the complicated part was that those who would be most familiar with the issues were either far away or were people who could sympathize with but not comfort me. There are other people in my life who are of great, loving comfort and who would do anything to help me feel better, but they aren’t familiar with the issues that were plaguing me in that moment. I was in this strange kind of nether-world where I needed something that I could barely articulate or recognize enough to articulate and in the moment had virtually no one who was available that I could process and release it with. It was a very lonely, desolate–albeit brief–feeling. That must’ve been what Jesus felt like.
Eventually the immediate disorientation passed and the I-don’t-know-who-to-tell-this-to feeling lessened to a tolerable level before disappearing completely. Still, it was a reminder to me that over these 40 days and many other days in our lives we’re going to hit this particular type of moment. It might not last, we might not even notice it or recognize it for what it is, but it will hit. The key for me, from where I sit, is that I reach out to someone, even if I don’t think they’ll understand it fully. What I need in that moment is just a voice to say, “It’s okay.” At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all need?
“And now I hear you speak each and every word
That I didn’t think lonely people heard
You took a long night and turned it into day…”