Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Alone But Not Lonely

I live in a society that is desperately afraid of being alone. So alarmed are we of solitude that we define normalcy by how many groups we belong to:

“I go to church, Sunday School, and small groups.”

“I volunteer through our Give-Back-to-Others program at work.”

Ending the Day on a Good Note original oil painting with 1940s inspirational girl taking off hat next to gramophone by Steve Henderson

It is normal and healthy to crave time to ourselves, and with God. Ending the Day on a Good Note, original painting by Steve Henderson.

“I belong to many civic organizations, and we do good things for the community. I am even a leader in some of these groups.”

“I have a lot of friends, and I get together with people all the time.”

And the crowning achievement:

“I am a people person.”

Our most signature sign of failure as a human being is the diner in the cafeteria or restaurant — be it a school child or professional adult — eating alone, and I will never forget a friend in college describing his reaction to the situation this way:

“I want to stand up and shout, ‘I have friends! I’m not a loser!'”

Not a Loser

Alone means lonely, and lonely means loser.

But is that true?

Because we are never, or rarely, alone, and when we are we have ear buds in or the TV droning, silence is a novelty, but it is only in and through silence — away from the noise and the chatter and the distractions — that we are able to think, meditate, reflect, ponder, pray, and . . . listen.

The Bible talks about the still, small voice of God. In context, you’ll find it in 1 Kings 19, when Elijah, after an especially stressful time (Queen Jezebel imposed a death sentence on him), runs away to God’s holy mountain, a 40-day’s journey away.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asks. Elijah responds with a viable argument, but not the deepest truth within his heart.

Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains inspirational oil painting of deer in meadow by Steve Henderson

The top of a mountain is generally a solitary, peaceful place, and our soul communes with God there. Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face, and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

“Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'” (1 Kings 19: 11-13)

Activity, Noise, Distraction

I’m sure that Elijah, like the rest of us, preferred the noise and the activity, because as long as they were going on, he could pretend he didn’t hear anything else. He could drown his problems, or bury them, in distraction.

So often, when we finally decide to leave a situation — a bad relationship, a job, a friendship, a church fellowship — we immediately fill in the space that it used to take. One morning, we change our Facebook status from “In a Relationship” to “Single,” but by late afternoon, we’re “In a Relationship” again. In the old days, before we provided online details of our breakfast menu, people passed on gossip the hard way —  one by one:

“Did you see Eleanor with Ebenezer at the restaurant last night? I don’t even think her divorce with Edgar is final!” Sports crazy fanatics that we are (oh, more group activity!), we even have a term for this: rebound. It’s rarely considered a wise, ruminative, introspective move: how could it be?

Our Worship of Extroverts

We worship extroverts as normal; introverts as weird. And yet when it comes to thinking, is this a quality we associate with someone who is always in the midst of a crowd of people?

Light in the Forest inspirational oil painting two women girls with candles Celtic in woods by Steve Henderson

In silence we are able to think, meditate, pray, and . . . listen. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at iCanvasART and Framed Canvas Art.

Speaking of being in a crowd of people, this is a good description of Jesus, who was constantly followed about by just about everybody — his disciples, the blind, the lame, the scribes, the leaders, the hungry, the sick, and the relatives of the sick — and yet throughout the gospels, we are repeatedly told, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5: 16)

He sought solitude — because it was the best place to meet God — away from the voices, away from the noise, away from the distractions, away from the advice. A situation we consider bad — being alone — is something Christ made a regular part of His life.

We too can do this.

If you are leaving something — a person, a place, a thing — don’t be so quick about finding a replacement. Rest, instead, in the thought that you are not alone — you are NEVER alone — because God is with you, He hears the cry of every child, and responds to it.

Quite often, quite quietly.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I am spending this middle part of my life unlearning all the stuff that was crammed into me in my younger years. In the process, I am slowly, yet firmly, finding the God of love, grace, mercy, compassion, and understanding that the Christian religious establishment promises, but doesn’t teach.

Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship — but in pursuing that relationship, you have to leave the religion behind.

Posts similar to this one are

We’re Not All Extroverts — and Introverts Aren’t Abnormal

Sometimes, Normal is Abnormal

The Misfit Christian (the closer your relationship with Christ, the less you will fit into the world’s expectations; and unfortunately, wolves from the world have — throughout the ages — dressed up as Christians and taught things that Christ did not teach. My book encourages individual Christians to be just that — individual Christians who are strong enough to join a group and contribute to it, as opposed to being controlled by it.)

 

  • CommonSenseThoughts

    Thank you, Carolyn, for your supportive words.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    They do, and they will — but I cannot tell you how. The growth process we undergo as Christians is painful, and frequently slow — not because we’re such idiots (this is generally what we’re told, in one format or another), but simply because what we have to learn is so deep, and rich, and beautiful, and difficult to comprehend, that it takes time and God’s patient, merciful, loving hand to bring it about.

    You are in my prayers, my friend, and I pray for that beaten sense of exhaustion, that questioning sometime of, “Why should I pray? You never seem to answer.” What is important to know is that there is no thought, no fear, no ANYTHING that you cannot bring before Him without fear. He won’t punish you for a bad thought, or turn His back on Him if you let loose with all the achings of your soul.

  • CommonSenseThoughts

    Hi, Carolyn, thank you so much for your reply and your condolences.
    I really appreciate your prayers too. I really need His peace.
    As for being over-whelmed, I’m way past that point…to the point of being almost totally non-functional. But I have to go on.
    So I hope all your prayers help.
    Thank you again. God bless you!

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Please accept my condolences on the loss of your best friend, companion, and beloved husband. I send you my prayers, and I am always willing to converse, digitally, with brothers and sisters who wish to, and who contact me through the Contact page on our Steve Henderson Fine Art website.

    There is much to be said in this alone time in contemplative prayer, but I found, in my own life, that I had to get beyond the, “I’m so weird because I’m alone part,” to extract the full benefit from it. It’s along the lines of recently unemployed people who feel that they are valueless to society because they don’t have a job — whenever we don’t “look” like everyone else, there’s a process to go through to reach acceptance, of ourselves and our situation, in light of God’s eye on us.

    You seem to have a grasp on wisdom, and are walking through difficult and aching circumstances with the only One who can get you through them. I pray that He sends you someone, or someones, to get the many household and “honey-do” jobs done, and that you not feel overwhelmed. I pray also for continued clarity in communing with Him, and a gentle sense of peace in His presence.

  • CommonSenseThoughts

    “Alone but not lonely” is what I have been thinking (and saying to some people) ever since my dearly loved husband passed away.
    I have lived alone ever since, and I am only lonely for him.
    .
    I very often prayed to God for a real friend just for support occasionally. But my prayer was never answered.
    In retrospect:
    It became quite clear that God is the ONLY One He wants in my life…at least for now.
    Because of this, my thoughts are mostly about Him with contemplative prayer.
    .
    HE always provides for my basic mundane needs…and He knows my Spiritual needs that need and the lessons I need to learn.
    I suppose His Will is for me to be alone with Him….so that I am not distracted by anyone else.
    So I am not really alone…because God is my REAL Friend.

  • Pingback: Is God Calling You? - Commonsense Christianity

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    So very true, Karen. I am especially struck by your comment that we make gods of people, including historical figures of the past that we tell stories about, and believe, and look upon as role models. But all they are, really, are humans about whom we have told a lot of stories, and every time we encounter stories (which include the nightly news), we have to ask ourselves, “Who is telling the story? And what is the benefit they get out of my believing in it?”

    Since I have become awake — a long, multi-year process, I have had human idols — historical and present day figures — toppled for me right and left. At first it was disconcerting, but now I am so accustomed to the truth that men lie, and lie all the time, that I look at new information with the thought, “Well, who or what will I find out today, that isn’t measuring up to the myths I’ve been told?”

    Because, as you say, the true rest is in Christ alone — His truth, His goodness, His grace.

  • Karen

    We’ll never find the contentment we seek until we find it in Jesus. Without Him, we try to make gods of people, experiences and things. It should be no wonder they leave us empty and feeling alone.

  • Pingback: “Jesus Loves You!” — Enough, Already - Commonsense Christianity

  • Pingback: Alone Does Not Mean Lonely; and Lonely Does Not Mean Loser | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

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