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Being alone and being lonely must never be confused with one another. We all know what it feels like to be crowded in by the demands of others so much that we crave time alone, time to ourselves, time for private thoughts. Time alone gives us the chance to refuel and regroup so we can return to our schedules. But few of us who crave time alone want to live permanently alone and isolated from relationships. Loneliness, as we usually think of it, is feeling desolate and empty for lack of constant companionship. God, I believe, understands fully our need for companionship, intimacy, relationship, connectedness, and to be touched meaningfully by other human beings. Nowhere in Scripture does God confine a human being to permanent isolation.

But there is a loneliness that is intrinsic to our humanity. No amount of love, friendships and sexual encounters can extinguish it. Loneliness can be an invitation from God to draw closer to the flame. Loneliness is where you have opportunity to touch the source of your strength. Try as you may to fill that loneliness with more people, more stuff, more activity, more time away from your Self, the more you try, the more insistent it is. So, accept it: a side of you will never belong fully to others, nor will it ever allow you to be fulfilled by your relationship with others. There is a place within each of us that only the sacred can fill, a place that the divine seeks to occupy.

Loneliness is designed to drive you to the edge of mystery where you might find your true Self.

What do you usually do when you’re aching with loneliness? Who are the people in your life that you are most likely to call to fill the loneliness? Next time, resist picking up the phone. Sit with the loneliness. Hear it out.

Instead of searching for people to be with and things to do that will blot out the feelings of loneliness, take out your pen and journal your way through the ache. What’s really driving the achiness of loneliness? What might your soul know about your needs that your mind doesn’t know?

–Renita Weems

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