In my life, I am experiencing loneliness in a deep way for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that my kids are launching into independent lives. Not only are they both fairly able to manage their work and schedules with some, but often little, direction from me, they are quite good friends. They enjoy each other’s company, listen to or appreciate the same music, play instruments together, and have TV shows that they make a point to watch together. I took them to Seattle this past December, and although the three of us have traveled ‘just us’ before, this trip was the first time I appeared to be a third wheel. Not the entire trip, but at times there was a banter or an interaction that I was not a part of and could not participate in for any number of reasons.
My loneliness in bittersweet. How can I possibly be sad about the healthy and loving sibling relationship I joyfully witness between my teenagers? And as they become independent and need less from me, how can I not see that as healthy, productive, and appropriate growth? But in my life, that growth leaves me alone. This alone is the bitter part of loneliness. And as I have reflected, thought, prayed, and journaled, I think loneliness has the ability to erode our hearts which in turn affects our emotions, behaviors, actions, and decisions. Psalms 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
If I sit in the bitter instead of the sweet, I am fearful of what the erosion of loneliness could do in my life. It has the ability to affect my behavior, affect my mood, affect my reactions, affect my decisions, and affect my emotions. I have found myself having to check myself and determine if my thoughts and actions, which flow from my heart, are based in what I know about myself and my foundation or if they are based in the erosion of loneliness. If I allow the erosion, I feel heavy, as if I am walking through mud. When I allow the loneliness to erode my emotions, my mood is affected and even little things can feel insurmountable.
The other day, as I was pumping gas, the pump kept shutting off. Seriously, for every gallon that went into the tank, the pump would shut off and I would have to start again. Trust me, the tank was not full. But each time I squeezed the handle, it would fill for a little bit and then click off. As the pump clicked off for what felt to me like the 80th time, tears fell in big weepy drops. I had to get in my car and take a breath and talk myself back to reality. I mean, it was just silly! It’s just a gas pump and my car did get close to being filled up, but I had let loneliness erode my heart, and I had nothing to put things into perspective.
Unlike the erosion of landscape or art pieces, heart erosion can be repaired. It can be repaired by attitude, by living out gratitude, by watching my kids interact and allowing myself to feel fulfilled, by reaching out to a friend, by embracing the wonderful new things in my life, but mostly it can be repaired by God. He doesn’t desire loneliness nor does he want us to sit in it. He provides a way out. He tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Now I know this is about temptation, but I also know that it is tempting to sit in my loneliness and mourn. I also know that I can see a way out of that ‘mourning’.
The way out may not be what we envision, but he does provide a repair for the erosion loneliness causes in our hearts. His love can spur us on to find the way he has provided to us, a way to disallow the loneliness to set in and become comfortable and a way to guard our heart. We need to only look, with open eyes and a hopeful heart.
For me, right now, that way looks like blogging and running the trails with my faithful four-legged companions. Both provide a reset and a new attitude, which, for me, is a complete repair of erosion.
By His Grace