Some people — whether they feel happy, sad, scared or whatever — live wholeheartedly. We are drawn to them and wonder with longing what their secret is. They are introverts, extroverts, men and women from all walks of life. What they have in common is a deep and meaningful connection to others. They feel known and loved in a world where life is a journey meant to be experienced and shared.
Perhaps it was never in their temperaments to hide or isolate themselves. Or it’s possible they’ve made a conscious decision to risk living intertwoven with others – even though they are sometimes hurt, rejected and fail. Either way, their lives are attractive and desirable, but belonging to this vibrant group eludes some of us. What is it they have, that we might not? Some possibilities:
- Courage and willingness to be imperfect. We all acknowledge we are sinful, for goodness sakes, surely honest mistakes and sub par performances are allowed.
- Compassion (this will surprise you) toward themselves first and then others. They are not their own worst critic, therefore they give ample grace to both themselves and others.
- Vulnerability. It’s is the human condition, and even more so for Christians. While some of us find this a terribly painful truth, those who live fully connected and alive surrender to it’s necessity. Vulnerability is at the heart of belonging, which leads to fullness and the freedom to live artfully.
There’s another group of us who flirt with life on Lonely Street — and know in our hearts we’re missing something. What if time spent on the continuum of chronic loneliness inversely impedes our experience of the abundant life God promises? Let’s view loneliness, for a moment, as the antithesis of abundant life. Are you living life to the fullest most of the time? If not, are you willing to take another path?
I know how painful it is to to trust, to let your guard down and others in — only to get burned. It happens in business, families and friendships. No one is totally immune. What do we do in response?
When our relationships fail or don’t meet our expectations, most of us withdraw. With each subsequent rejection, we build more walls — and we succeed in keeping others out and feeling isolated.
But the truth is relationships aren’t all about what we receive as individuals. We are made to live in community with others, as image bearers of God. Consider Jesus’ relationships. He reaches out to others first (including you and me) and doesn’t seek people because they can benefit Him. He doesn’t keep score and he’s the first to resolve conflict and forgive.
He asks us to be like Him. In a nutshell, loving our neighbors (relationship) is about loving God and letting Him fill us with perfect love. God’s extravagant love, demonstrated to us on the cross and everyday of our lives, freely flows through us and impacts others.
Sometimes, we struggle to love this generously. We hoard God’s love inside our self-built walls. We live privately and politely, but we’re very careful not to go down narrow alleys where we might connect deeply and honestly enough to risk pain.
Remember I’m defining loneliness as a continuum that steals from us the abundant and joyful life God wants for us. Are you anywhere on that continuum, missing out on all God desires for you” Possibly —
- clinging to entitlement: what I want? the good life? just having fun?
- are you so strong you’re trying to carry God’s load?
- do you refuse to be inconvenienced?
- do you insist on hiding your imperfections from others?
- are you afraid of dirtying your hands in the messiness of life?
- do you escape to substance or behavioral abuse (technology included)?
- do you worship busyness: schedules, tasks, and accomplishments?
What’s your MO? We want to think that loneliness happens to us, but most often we are inflicting pain on ourselves. We stubbornly insist on doing things our way, which means isolating ourselves from intimacy with the Living Christ and real relationships with our neighbors. A dead end street.
My encouragement is that we all embrace what God offers — abundance and fullness of life. The Message says it this way “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10)
Just before that (John 10:7-9), Jesus says this, “ I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy.
1 Peter 5:8 adds, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.“
Lions, enemies and thieves alike go for the prey they find straying from the herd. It’s not much of a stretch to say the devil has a much easier path to you when you are isolated and lonely. AND the Bible states clearly there is value in the body of Christ being connected and interdependent.
Back in January I wrote Like a Little Child – part 1 with some ideas about ways we’re different as little children than when we grow up. Part 2 was never written — I got stuck, because I didn’t have good answers as to why I hold back. That post is related to this one, because children offer some of our very best examples of abundant life; they are vulnerable, fearless, relational, fully alive people. God says to be like them in order to enter His Kingdom. I think this is true for heaven and on earth.
In God’s timing — I’m back at the crossroads. Today’s post is the follow up. There are many ideas for how to live whole heartedly in part 1. In this series on loneliness, I hope you’re convinced as to WHY it is worth the effort to end our chronic loneliness. To connect every day — deeply and casually. To become wholehearted like a little child. To stay on the God prescribed path that leads to Life.
Expect a challenge to follow. If you’re an electronics addict. If anything around chronic loneliness resonates with you (even if you have a great life and lots of friends). Or if you just want to live less distracted and more whole hearted — I’d love you to join me in seeking to live on the path of Life.
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
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