A recent survey in the US this CoVid-19 season shows that it is not only loners who are struggling with feelings of loneliness. Social distancing, working from home, city lock downs, closure of schools and quarantines means many of us are cut off from our social support systems. We can't visit our parents if they live far away, we can't just drop in and visit our friends or have them visit us, Bible studies went online and are erratic at best, and birthdays, anniversaries... oh what month is it?
I am a loner who can be perfectly content for months with the company of my husband, children and a few close friends. But during this season, I have found myself craving for a deeper connection with my friends, a need that falls flat when all I am faced with is a computer screen and an unstable Internet connection that times out every 40 minutes.
One day I sat and looked at my phone, willing for it to ring for a call from someone, anyone who has also been longing for a connection. It was silent. No calls, no texts, no idle chats. I guess I'm just missing peopleing. Especially on weekends. It has made me realise that many of my normal social connections are flippant and shallow, and would not withstand the rigorous testing of Covid's social distancing without conscious effort. Sieved by isolation, I did not have many friendships to fall back on.
The next day I picked up my phone and reached out to a few people to check up on them. My husband had challenged me to call up people instead of sitting by my phone waiting for people to call me. That's how I am beating loneliness. I'm starting the bridge. I am texting and calling and planning Zooms and Google Meets and when I can dropping by someone's house.
Most importantly God has been teaching me that he is the one who fills my love bucket. When I am feeling forgotten, lonely, I can get the affection, love and affirmation I need from him. God loves me, he goes before me, he encompasses me from behind, he has engraved me on the palm of his hand, he is constantly thinking of me. And he has given to me the Holy Spirit to cheer and guide. I am never alone or forgotten or unimportant.
The stinging part of dealing with loneliness has been reading a list of some patterns of the "flesh" written by Denise Glenn in her book Freedom for Mothers. Depression, being a loner, fear, negativism, passivity, self-pity, worrying, feelings of rejection and inadequacy, withdrawal - were all the flesh manifesting. I was walking in my flesh instead of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn't birth self-centredness, self sufficiency, pride and self pity, neither does he breed negativity, fear, sadness and withdrawal in us. Self sufficiency tells me I don't need people. Pride asks why I have to call or visit people who don't call or visit me. Self pity says there is something wrong with me and people will never really like me. But the Holy Spirit has been whispering love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness and self control. This is what I should have been cultivating.
How are you connecting in meaningful ways this season? Have you lost friends you thought were friends? Are you feeling left out, forgotten? Are you reaching out to your friends, or have you forsaken those who count on you for emotional, spiritual and mental support? Have you started appreciating gatherings and sessions that you once took for granted as part of your mental and emotional wellness networks? I know I miss church, and being able to travel to see my folks at a whim. Where is the Holy Spirit convicting you of fleshiness in your relationships?
May God send you angels to warm your path if you feel like you are walking alone. May his love fill your heart also, so you can love others who are feeling lonely around you.