When you are lonely and love doesn't seem to break in
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
I was reflecting this morning how there have been times in my life when I have felt utterly alone. Utterly bereft. Not seen. Not known in the midst of my pain. They were some of the most lonely times I have ever experienced. I could intellectually believe that God was with me but experientially I simply didn't feel it. I felt isolated, and worse, I felt like it was my fault somehow that the Holy One, the One I called "friend," wouldn't sit with me in my pain because I was too torn, too messed up, too slimed with the filth of this world. Lying feelings.
I think if we were truly honest we would all say that our faith has had shadows, does have shadows, or will have shadows. We call it wrestling with God, questioning our faith, or outright disbelief. It seems like it is our journey as we grow in that tension of the relationship between an ultimately perfect God who loves, even adores, imperfect and broken humans. Perfect loves messy. Goodness loves the flawed and scarred. Light makes His home in the shadows of our hearts. It is an offense to our pride and sometimes feels impossibly hard to accept. Don't we all shudder with the thought of letting a completely pure person draw painfully close to us in the rawness of our vulnerability? I have been faced with that choice many times, and many times I have chosen to cover myself with "fig leaves." My fig leaves don't look like foliage strewn over pertinent parts of my body but more like behaviors that cover my shame. The "I'm fine," response when someone asks me if I'm ok, you know, that kind of stuff. A friend asks me a real question that makes me feel exposed and I grab a fig leaf to cover myself. It's comical in a way, like the fig leaves are an effective means of hiding....not.
So, since we don't want to expose ourselves in vulnerability, we sit with life falling apart around us and what we think is, "I got myself into this mess, I have to get myself out of it." Or, "God has abandoned me because if He was with me this wouldn't have happened." Either way we have chosen to believe we are walking a path that's alone, devoid of Him.
I can't remember the day I chose to shed a fig leaf or two. It was probably in my therapists office in a very awkward moment (for me at least). Hello shame, oh crap I feel vulnerable, Oh Lord isn't there a way you can cover me because I don't feel safe. I don't feel safe in my grief because as far as I can tell you weren't there to stop that awful thing from happening. I don't feel safe in my life because if you let that happen then other things can happen and that means you won't protect me and didn't you say you were supposed to protect us? I hate the tears and I hate the vulnerability and I feel ashamed that I couldn't make a better go out of this life and I don't know how to hold my grief on display and talk to people. I feel safer to keep away from you God and keep away from everyone and why in the world did I take off the fig leaf and why I am going to this therapist anyway because I never wanted anyone to touch this stuff and, oh God, find me a place to hide again......but preferably a place where you aren't because God, you feel like you are being invasive and I'm not sure who you are and I have no idea if you are safe.
Out of that torrent of thoughts and emotions (which I'm quite sure I had, but with less clarity, and more visceral anger and defensiveness) comes a way out of that place that F. Scott Fitzgerald talks about, the loneliest moments in life when everything is falling apart and we stare blankly. Or put another way, life crashes around us and we disconnect, either through addictive behaviors, or religious activity (I'm OK), or pretending it's not happening. We hide.
Hiding seems safe but it just leads to this:
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
― Mother Teresa
― Mother Teresa
I am going to spend the next few blog posts exploring the idea that although we all find a temporary solace in hiding, there is a different way, a better way to make it through the poverty of loneliness. I'm learning how to lean into love. I'll be honest, it doesn't always feel great. Most of the time it's pretty excruciating, and it always, always takes courage, but I do believe that it's worth it. Maybe we can all, together, break through the feeling of being unloved into the experiential knowing that we are adored beyond our deepest imaginings even when life is unraveling around us.