Before I moved to the Eastern Shore, I worked for the Annapolis Maritime Museum as a marketing intern. Below is a picture of my favorite exhibit: “Miss Lonesome”. I liked the character of the tattered and torn wooden siding of this boat. I thought it proved her sturdy struggle to survive on the open sea. Loss, leading to loneliness, has been a running theme in my life over the past few years so I felt painfully connected to this image.
~ Loss ~
Loss can take shape in a variety of different ways throughout a person’s life. For me, loss continued to change faces.
When we are young, we learn to lose things like games or our toys when we are misbehaving. Having said that, losing our pride or privileges pales in comparison to losing people. Eventually, everyone will face the pain of loss; whether it be the death of a loved one, relational breakage, job loss…etc. But some people have yet to experience the reality of loss directly affecting their lives in a major way.
Personally, I got to the point where losing people was such a common occurrence that I never expected anyone who walked into my life to actually stay. I was always such an optimist before, how could I become so cynical? I was tired of being let down after having such high hopes; so I built higher walls instead.
I began to retract out of fear of being burned again. At some point, repetition proved my reality. I resorted to holding on to the few, close relationships I had with a tight grip. I assumed that any new person who waltzed into my life immediately threatened my current relational stability (or lack therein). Needless to say, I dislike change and missed out on connecting with people who could have made me perfectly happy if I was not so skeptical.
On the flip side, some people didn’t choose to walk out on me; God took them. Death is an entirely different form of loss with a much bigger impact, leading to grief. The best book I have ever read on the subject of losing a loved one is, “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis. Douglas Gresham, Lewis’ step-son, writes a powerful realization in the book’s introduction saying, “I had yet to learn that all human relationships end in pain–it is the price that our imperfection had allowed Satan to exact from us for the privilege of love” (p. xxiv).
I did not know how accurate this statement was until it became true in my life. The pain of inevitable loss should never outweigh the privilege of love. Grieving is a long process and everyone handles it differently. Some in healthier ways than others…No matter how old, you are always too young to die if Christ has not taken control over your life. Even if He has, knowing your loved one is in heaven is hardly a consolation in the present moment of grief.
Whatever your situation, I hope this verse encourages you: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV).
~ Loneliness ~
Let’s talk mental health. When you are constantly alone, you literally lose touch with people and disconnect emotionally which isolates you from any real, beneficial relationship. I tend to cope with things solitarily, silently and internally. I got to the point where I was, and still am at times, quite numb to people’s emotions because I refrained from any interaction. After you have been thrown into ice water enough times, you lose the hope of warming back up; instead, you become insensitive to temperature.
I use to isolate myself in a safe bubble, keeping an arm’s length from any type of heartfelt emotion that started towards someone else. I did not like when other people were interested in me because I couldn’t control their feelings, only mine. I refrained from honestly expressing my emotions and giving them a chance by pushing away until I could address my feelings for them from afar.
When I lose relationships, I automatically shoot off a firework show of thoughts like, “what is wrong with me?” “why don’t they want to be around me anymore?” “who can just leave without an explanation?” “what did I do wrong?” etc. Having said that, I began cutting off certain relationships before they even really started to avoid potential rejection. Thankfully, the Lord has graciously been addressing my insecurities.
I was focussing on exterior explanations like body image or personality conflicts when the Lord began to use these situations to unveil numerous insecurities that I personally needed to work through. Do not change who you are to please someone else. Find someone who brings out the best version of YOU. When someone takes the time to get to know you on a heart level, faults and all, that person is priceless.
I have come a long way from where I was, though I am still growing in this area, I want to assure you that you are never truly alone. The Lord seeks out even just 1 lost sheep out of 100 in order to joyfully return it to his pasture (Luke 15: 4-7). You are the Lord’s. Having said that, you are equally responsible for seeking others out!
As my pastor always references: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Prov. 18:24, NKJV). The other sheep did not seek out the lost one. Jesus did. Be an imitator: You feel hurt? Left out? Alone? Get up and be proactive! I would rather risk the pain of being hurt again than risk never making another meaningful relationship in my life.
~ Love ~
“Love covers over a multitude of sins” repairing broken bonds through reconciliation (1 Peter 4:8). Relationships are painful because they are between broken people trying to complete themselves with another. Keep in mind that Christ completes you, not another person: “So you also are complete through your union with Christ” (Col. 2:10, NLT). We are in the way of our own happiness because we are too stubborn to admit any wrongdoing on the basis of feeling hurt or offended.
Newsflash: the Christian acts out of faithful obedience to God’s Word, not our own feelings. We may not always feel like obeying God’s word, but we are called to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV).
I am no expert on the subject, but I do know that we cannot selfishly protect ourselves from love by shunning others from getting too close. Been there, done that, still hurts. We were made to be relational creatures: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” (Gen. 2:18, ESV). We are made to support one another in our various roles as male and females.
In addition to marriage relationships, as single individuals, we can also experience such love: “Greater love has no one but this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV). Some people have been called to marriage, others have been called to a life of singleness, but that does not mean we lose the option of having meaningful relationships and the love experienced therein.
Whether you are single or in a relationship, content or conflicted, be mindful of the season He has you in! The Lord is preparing you for the next, whatever that may look like. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Even at our lowest point, God loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sake. What an amazing love story!
I can only pray that I will be able to imitate that love towards others on a regular basis. Let’s commit to approaching people with humility and honesty, taking responsibility for our own mistakes, reconciling broken relationships with purpose, and building new ones with selfless, sacrificial love. Don’t change people, change your perspective!