It’s been an interesting journey coming to this place, physically and existentially, where I find myself these days. There is a message that’s been repeating, with increasing volume for months now. The Lord went from whispering to shouting: Do you believe? There are so many areas of faith where this touched in the last couple months. But for this first piece, it touched really close to home this week. So, to start this off, I wanted to explore the truth that as Christians we are never alone.
I had a conversation last week about the disconnect a lifetime of transience causes in relationships. Living for most of the years of your life, moving from place to place, nothing solid, nothing stable, no one permanent. This lifestyle, found in military brats, missionary kids, preachers’ families at least in the Methodist church, and probably a whole lot of other places, provides some really unique and amazing opportunities for growth. It gives people a deep insight into the “other” in the world that most never experience. It creates a unique ablility to roll with the waves of life that threaten to swamp most people.
At the same time, that transience creates this great, widening gulf in the soul. If you’ll be moving on in a little while, wouldn’t it be better not to get too attached to the walls that house you and the stuff you have? If you’ll find yourself among new people in a blink of an eye, isn’t it maybe better not to get too close? After all, if you can’t count on anything or anyone being always there, isn’t it just better to rely on yourself, keep yourself close, guard your heart? Then when it all fades away, you can walk alone into the new standing tall, unscathed, unbroken, untouched, and maybe even unafraid
As this conversation unfolded, my heart wept a little for the pain of that life. I remember when that was me. More heartbreaking, I remember when I thought that was a good thing. I grew up in the Navy. In many ways, I loved growing up in the Navy. In that life, I learned to love the sea, and am grateful the Lord has brought me back to it. From traveling, I grew to love the adventure of moving new places, seeing new things. In the change, I embraced the solitude and challenge of being who I chose to be in each new place. I loved the freedom.
Yet, my heart and mind gloss over the memories of the other parts. I mourned the loss of friends every couple of years as we moved away. I lost the sense of self as the common memories we form with friends drifted from my heart and mind, even as those friends disappeared. There was no place that I called home, only people. Mom, Dad, Cassandra, Jennifer, they were home. But I recognized even that as fleeting as I grew into my teens.
I knew sooner or later I would grow up, move away, and home would simply be … me, alone. I knew a truth the world tells us every day, no matter how it rails against it. In the end, we are all alone, unknown. We live locked inside our own heads, hearts, souls. I thought I was okay with that, safe and secure in that aloneness, and only lonely now and then.
It was strange in the conversation last week to recognize that I was not alone in that aloneness. It is a common broken place among all who have wandered.
This aloneness was such a normal thing for me that on the tail end of two broken marriage, with two children stripped from me and placed with their father, and two more that I worried for under unsupervised visitation, I could be okay. In a way aloneness was a blessing. It led me to a place where I could trust God to take care of my children when I could not. It helped me appreciate the women their fathers married that provided them someone to love and look after them when I could not.
But, in the beginning, that peace stemmed not from God, but from a sense of self-containment that I spent years developing. It came from a thought in my head that was true and real in my life at the time. I loved my children, and by the time I could articulate this thought, my husband. But, I also knew that if I woke up the next day alone in the world, with everyone I knew gone from the face of the earth, I would be okay. I could be okay. I loved them, but I didn’t need them. I loved them, but for the most part, I felt didn’t need me.
I don’t know when exactly the Lord broke me of the habit of solitude. But, I do know that somewhere along the way, He started the process. He reminded me that those children He had given me, that husband He had sent, were His gifts to me. That they might not always be present in my life day to day. That one day they would grow and leave. That one day I would die. That things would come about that brought separation. All of that was true. But the bigger truth: they were here now, a gift to be cherished, as God cherished me.
More than that, what God led me to discover was that as I put up walls between myself and others, I could not help but put up walls between myself and God. After all, if I only needed myself, then I had no need of my loving Father either, right? I could trust Him to watch over my kids when they were out of my hands, but did I trust Him with my heart? Hmm, perhaps not. It was easier to be self-contained, self-reliant, self-controlled. After all, I had a lifetime of experience with that, and so far, all that experience had shown me I was right: in the end we are all alone.
God did several things back at the beginning of this long, arduous journey to home, by way of Him. He put a sense of duty in my heart when Kenny and Michael were in 2nd and 3rd grade to put down my books, come out of my comfort zone, and engage as a Scout leader. I built friendships around that shared activity. I broke down the notion that I was shy, introverted, anti-social. Instead of those excuses, I did what I saw needed to be done, and found I enjoyed it. That brought cracks in my desire for aloneness.
My husband grew ill, and better, and ill, and better … For years, this sickness that had no name wreaked havoc on our lives. My work started to become sporadic. My income and outgo were always unequal, falling toward a much higher outgo with more regularity. During the beginning of that cycle of sickness and remission, and before the worst of the financial struggle hit, the Lord brought me to church, with a heart for Him, at the request of my son. That started the hammer blows on God’s carefully placed chisel to break down my sense of aloneness.
In a state of recognition that something was missing, I started to notice that I longed. I realized that I wanted more than that distant love for my kids. I didn’t feel quite right about the notion of being perfectly okay if the whole world went up in a ball of fire, or blinked out like a light. I no longer wanted to resign myself to being, in the end, alone, locked inside my mind, my heart, my soul, unknown. I needed … something.
The sickness broke me to the point of knowing that I could not go it alone. For the first time in my life I was faced with the brutal, naked reality that I was not in control. I knew with certainty that no amount of planning, working, bargaining, screaming, or calm on my part would fix it. My job was out of my control. My husband’s health was out of my control. Over those years, my daughter came home, my middle two kids were struggling at their dad’s when they visited, my oldest son grew more distant. And I couldn’t fix any of it. My world was falling apart at the seams, and I needed … To be known, to be comforted, to be held, to be not alone.
This was the beginning of the journey. I wish I could tell you that I remember the verses that carried me through. The ones that taught me God’s promises of His presence. But, truthfully, back then I couldn’t quote Scripture. I was only just starting to read it. Granted I was reading it voraciously. But it wasn’t verses then that showed me the way. It was the cry of our pastor at the time, Jared Lathem, assuring us each Sunday, sometimes twice, that there was more if we would just let God move us. He shared the call to obedience, whatever it was Jesus was saying to us to come and see.
It was in that obedience that the next steps of the journey came, but for now, let’s stick with those promises that strike at the aloneness so many of us wrap ourselves in. Today I know those promises. We find them in Deuteronomy 31:6 and repeated in Hebrews 13:5:
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
We find it in Psalm 23:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
We grasp it again joyfully throughout John. And perhaps my favorite, we hear it from Christ Himself in His last words:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20
If you profess with your mouth, and believe with your heart … Do I believe? Do I believe that I’m never alone? I didn’t, once upon a time. I like so many others thought I would always in the end be alone in my head, unknown and unknowable. But my loving Father showed me in these first step His truth, that overcomes that lie of the world. In Christ, God’s children are never alone. If you’re feeling alone, unloved, unknown, cry out to Jesus, or cry out to a friend, or drop me a line. The world can be pretty dark some days. It’s such a blessing to be reminded that the Light has already come so we are never alone.
Be blessed and be a blessing.
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