It seems these days that many of us are lonely. I do not think this is all due to the isolation from Covid-19. This feeling of separation from others, from not being understood, thinking that no one walks the journey with us, is an epidemic which can be just as damaging as a virus. It is a quiet cancer that eats away at our hearts and our energy. How did we come to be so lonely?
Loneliness is not the same thing as solitude. There are times when solitude fills us with good things. We have time to work through our experiences in solitude. The hours flow by as we learn or pray or garden or create. I have been alone and not lonely; yet, I have also been in a crowd of people and have felt very alone. Jesus pulled away sometimes to be alone. He needed to think and to pray. The Gospel writers never seem to mention when Jesus was lonely. I imagine he was from time to time.
I think Jesus was lonely when no one understood his mission. I think he was lonely when people he loved died or people he trusted turned away. But Jesus was able to lean into his relationship with his Father in heaven. Spiritually, he was never alone. Except, maybe that one time, on a tragic day when he hung on the cross. He quoted from the Psalms the loneliest statement: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” God made human understands our loneliness.
Some of our current loneliness comes from our style of living and our Western culture. We have homes to hide in and keep the world out. Our country is divided over politics and immigration and education and so many other things. This too leads to loneliness and conflict between friends and within families. We push others away who disagree with our worldview because it seems exhausting to work to overcome our differences. Even in church, there are many who feel cut off from community and from God. In some instances, loneliness can lead alcohol abuse or drug addiction or to suicide. Sometimes this darkness is so deep we just want an escape.
I came across this poem by William Wordsworth that seems to me to be a start at dispelling the edges of our current loneliness. It is called “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” His heart captured an image that came to his mind when he is alone. This image of dancing daffodils along the shore lifted up his spirit. We need these moments. What are your soul pictures-the memories that lift you? Sometimes a fleeting image or remembered kindness gives our brain a break from feeling distant and alone. Hold on to those. And find ways to reconnect to the people with whom you made those memories. If the loneliness seems to be surrounding you, please reach out to your church community. We can walk this road together.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.