"But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."
~ Psalm 131:2
I awoke this morning thinking of how I, and like so many others, am beginning to struggle to make sense of this time of isolation and uncertainty. I read of things, "going back to business as usual," and then consider the risk that I am willing to encounter to live that "normalcy."
It is very much like our spiritual life. Having been one who has embraced the teachings of Jesus, and then being asked to live those teachings in a world that does not exist.
Recklessness, ignorance, and then of course, simply sin, can invite us into temptation. They serve as the map for the steps that we would take in order to find ourselves once again asking God to, "help and deliver us."
I realize that where I am at today is exactly where I need to be. No testing. No wavering. Realizing that where I am and what I have is enough.
In 1975, Henri Nouwen first published the book, "Reaching Out." It's a small book, and in it, he writes, "Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. This requires not only courage but also a strong faith. As hard as it is to believe that the dry desolate desert can yield endless varieties of flowers, it is equally hard to imagine that our loneliness is hiding unknown beauty. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play."
About now I realize that my idea of turning my own isolation into solitude is leaving me with what seems to be a deeper level of loneliness.
I am surrounded each day by my family that loves me, and I have every need that I have being met. I have a place to live, food, and I am safe, but yet, there is this "other," sense of loneliness that seems to be settling in.
As I take another sip of coffee, and listen as the breeze as it moves through the screens of my home, I suddenly realize this next level of loneliness cannot be resolved by friends, family, or having "things to do." Not even the community that surrounds me can keep me from "this," loneliness. It must be encountered and lived through.
This second loneliness is an existential loneliness that belongs to the basis of our being. It’s where we are unfulfilled because only God can fill us.
What I am realizing is that each of us are being offered an important experience. In the loneliness that we are encountering, which for many about now is similar to a dark night of the soul, we are each learning that God is greater than the world around us.
In many ways it’s good because that kind of suffering makes us realize that this world is not the final destination.
So what do we do with this? We keep living. We recognize both the "good," the "bad," and even the "in between" times. We continue to handle our daily responsibilities, work, rest, worship and play. We ask God to be known in our loneliness, to give glimpses of beauty in the midst of the difficult moments, and draw our hearts to hope for a different future. A future when the loneliness doesn't "feel" so lonely and the ultimate future when all of the kinds of loneliness we are encountering will be no more.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.