In "Other" Words...Loneliness

I can't believe it's been over a week since I've posted! I had plans for a whole week's worth of posts last week, and was especially excited about last week's In "Other" Words quote by C. S. Lewis. Then I got sick. Or maybe make that SICK. Why is it that I either am really motivated to blog and don't have time, or have the time and am too tired/brain fogged/whatever else to blog? I managed to get a (late) book review posted, and apparently used up all available brain cells to do that. ;-) So I have much more to share...hopefully this week I'll have time and brainpower together long enough to whittle down my "to blog" list a bit!

“Rather than turn from loneliness,
what if we turned toward it?
Could it be that loneliness is not a curse
but a gift?
A gift from God?”

~Max Lucado,
Traveling Light: The Promise of Psalm 23

I did somewhat of a double-take on this quote when I first read it. My initial reaction was "Well, that is one thing I have been blessed with during the past few years...it has not been a season of loneliness."

I have had very definite seasons of loneliness in my life, but they have been few and far between. Between being richly blessed with close friends *almost* continually since meeting Susan and Julianne when we were three :), and having grown up in a very close-knit family, loneliness was somewhat brief and episodic in my life. The year we lived in Russellville, when I was in the sixth grade, and I spent the entire year praying to move back to Conway (which we did the following summer :)). My early days in Fort Smith after college, when I missed family, friends, and church immensely. These and other "bursts" of loneliness had definitely shown me that loneliness can be a blessing as well as a curse. That sixth grade year in Russellville especially was a year of tremendous growth for a young adolescent girl experiencing the culture shock of a new church and school.

But one of the things I've been most thankful for during the past few years of turmoil here has been the tiny group of very close friends who have "been there" for us in ways we could never have imagined before. I hear and read about people going through severely hard times with no support system and am constantly reminded how blessed we've been and how grateful I am. I am also reminded of how many people go through difficult days with an unbelieving or unsupportive spouse, or no spouse at all...and I am so thankful for Billy, who has been my rock of strength and my soft cushion of comfort, even as he has been right in the midst of the searing pain himself.

A little deeper thought, however, brought awareness of times of intense loneliness during the past few years...times that have been glaring reminders of the old saying about being lonely in a crowd full of people. I remembered the times I have told my two friends, who have stood on either side of me and almost literally propped me up at times during the past few years, that while I was more thankful than they would ever know for the ways they have been there for me, there are times when I would give almost anything for someone who has actually walked in our shoes. These friends have been amazingly understanding in their sharing of our burdens...but there have still been times I have literally ached for somone who could say, "I've been there. I know what you're going through. I know how you feel." How I would love to be able to "pick someone's brain" and ask "How did you handle this? Did you ever feel like this? Do you have any suggestions for this part?"

There have been other aches of loneliness during these years, too. I grew up with a very close and connected extended family, but my children's experience of extended family is much different than I expected it to be. Some of my biggest struggles with discontent in the past few years have been over this very issue. A friend mentioning a family get-together, photos of long-ago family friends on Facebook with their grandchildren, memories of my childhood holidays...little things that can send me straight into pity party mode if I'm not careful. And then there are those days when I would give anything and everything for an hour with my dad...when my thankfulness that he hasn't been here for the events of the past few years is overcome by longing for just a tiny bit of his encouragement and wisdom.

Loneliness hasn't been as much a stranger as I sometimes think.

And yet, I have definitely seen God working in that loneliness. We have truly learned to turn to Him in ways we otherwise wouldn't have. During times when we have desperately sought wise counsel and come up empty, we have learned first hand the truth of Jesus as the "Wonderful Counselor" spoken of in Isaiah 9:6. During times when I have ached for a hug and wise words from my dad, God has shown Himself faithful as the "Father to the Fatherless" promised in Psalm 68:5. In the times when my heart has broken over the pain my children were going through, when I have felt so woefully inadequate as a parent to deal with that pain, God has reminded me that He watched His innocent Child go through unimaginable pain...and that He went through that pain because of His love for *us*. He has reminded me in those times that He loves my children even more than I ever could...and that He is in control and is working His plan for good in their lives.

I am so very thankful for my husband, my travelling companion on this journey neither of us could ever have foreseen, and which we would never have chosen. I am so thankful for the handful of people who didn't have to walk this road with us, but who have chosen (or been chosen to :)) walk along-side us as burden-sharers. And I am, albeit a bit hesitantly, thankful for the gift of loneliness...one which would never have gone on any wishlist, and yet *is* still, amazingly, a gift.

To see others' thoughts on this week's In "Other" Words quote, visit Patricia at Typing One-Handed. Thanks to Patricia for hosting this week, and to Loni at Writing Canvas for her leadership of In "Other" Words. I'm excited to now be part of the In "Other" Words hostess team, and looking forward to hosting on September 29!


Kecia said...

Beautiful thoughts, Jennifer. I know what you mean in so many ways.

Esthermay said...

It is always a blessing to read the unique journeys of loneliness that we each take . . . To hear you say that you've definitely seen God working in your loneliness is a testament of faith and surrender.

Nice to "meet" you and welcome to the Hostess Team!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing . . . thank you for sharing a bit of loneliness and pain - Life can be hard - but God is ALWAYS good.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing . . . thank you for sharing a bit of loneliness and pain - Life can be hard - but God is ALWAYS good.

Tami Boesiger said...

It is evident by your sweet, grateful voice, your struggles have made you into a beautiful person, a faithful follower of God. You present a living example of our quote. Thanks.

Patricia said...

I enjoyed learning a little about you today. It is good to hear how much you appreciate and love your husband. It is bond unlike any other. Blessings.