Loneliness and the Jesus Prayer 

community

I lay on my back in a sterile room, a fancy xray machine above and around me. I am with complete strangers, entrusting myself to their care and expertise. The burgundy hospital gown I wear is a shapeless piece of cloth, fashioned not for beauty but for practicality.

I am alone and I feel vulnerable. While I trust the strangers in the work they do, they know nothing about me other than my name, my age, and my insurance carrier. Other than that, I am an anonymous body in a big system.

They don’t know that I woke up this morning thinking about my beautiful grandson and the daughter who is his mom; they don’t know that I am thinking about my parents and how aging is not for the weak, not for cowards. They have no idea that I have five children whom I would give my life for; that not a day goes by without me thinking about them and praying for their hearts and souls.

They know nothing about me beyond this procedure.

These strangers are kind, they try and make me as comfortable as possible. They explain every step of what they will do and try and buoy me with their confidence.

In the big scheme of things, this whole procedure is small. The pain is nothing in comparison to other pain that I’ve felt. It’s just that the feelings it evokes are big.

Somehow, it feels like this pain represents the pain of my world, the pain that so many I know are experiencing. It represents physical and emotional pain. It represents the deep loneliness that many live in every day. It represents the isolation within which so many live and die.

Sociologists claim that social isolation is now endemic in American society. The number of adults who claim they are lonely is double what it was in the 1980s. This affects the overall health and wellbeing of millions of people. Both physical and emotional pain are intensified by loneliness. We are hard-wired for human connection and when that is missing, we suffer.

All this I think about as I lay, watching a stranger busily prepare for a medical procedure.

I’m alone in the room now. They say they will be back soon. The Jesus Prayer is on my lips: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

There is something about this prayer, something that reminds me that all this loneliness and pain I am feeling for the world is not my burden to bear. It is too big and it would quite literally kill me. I slowly release it, offering it up to the unseen but fully present God that I trust.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me. And so it is.

Series on Suffering #4 – Loneliness, A Type of Suffering

Urban - Loneliness

Loneliness – A Type of Suffering* by Robynn

Over the years I’ve been graced with some very precious friends. This past summer I said good-bye to two of them. One is a friend with whom I share a great deal of history. We’ve been through deep suffering together. We’ve laughed a lot and cried even more over the years. The other is a newer friend but we’ve walked miles together and logged many conversations of significance.

Both are good friends. And I miss them.

Saying goodbye again reminds me of the sting of loneliness. As everyone has, I’ve endured seasons of deep loneliness. I’ve felt misunderstood, empty, alone. I used to dread loneliness. It felt dark and claustrophobic. I felt isolated. I felt sadness and pain. I hated loneliness. But lately I’ve come to recognize Loneliness as a generous benefactor. Loneliness greets me in the morning with strange and unusual mercies. She lingers in the afternoon and sits with me on the sofa and she offers me presents.

Loneliness comforts me with the reality that she cannot destroy me. I live on, even in her company. That’s reassuring—because I used to feel that she would be my undoing, my destruction, my soul’s demise. Now I know differently.

Loneliness is a type of suffering and suffering has the capacity to transform me. It produces character. It gives way to endurance. It yields to faith. Those are sweet and generous gifts.

Loneliness highlights my need. She gives me my emptiness. This is a good thing. I recognize my empty spaces and I have the opportunity to turn to God with my soul in my hands, my heart on my sleeve. This helps me see that God can really be my True Soul Friend. I can experience His Presence. Loneliness gave me that.

She gives me my humanity. She connects me to millions of others around the globe who are displaced, afraid, betrayed, abandoned. Loneliness whispers, “see you are not alone”. The pain that she brings also reminds me that I’m still alive. And I’m more fully human for having encountered her.

Loneliness shows me her ability to diminish when I take my eyes off her. She gets smaller in stature when I don’t focus or fixate on her. Conversely she grows enormous and ominous when I stare at her, when I dote on her, when I nurse her with my self-pity. She’s magical that way. That’s another of her mysterious gifts.

Perhaps the sweetest thing of all that Loneliness gives is the opportunity to receive random moments of connection with others as gifts in themselves. I can receive a deep conversation in the church lobby. I can enjoy a joke with a stranger in the grocery store. I can marvel at the various people God has given me –a kindly neighbor, a faithful postman, a humorous barista–and I can receive them with thanks. I don’t have to demand from them a forced friendship, a deeper commitment. I can walk away and be grateful for the moment of connection, the sacred spot of community. Loneliness gave me that.

I’ve just said goodbye, with sobs and tears, to my friend Ellen. She’s returning to India. And I’m staying on here. I’ve bid Ellen farewell and in the same space, filling the same place she leaves– Loneliness steps in. I also just said goodbye to Jill. Jill’s moving to a place I’ve never even visited. She’s going on new adventures without me. I’ve said farewell to Jill too and Loneliness swoops in. I’d rather Ellen and Jill had stayed. But I’ve learned to not resist Loneliness.

Thank you Loneliness. You’ve been almost kind to me.

*This piece was first published under The Gifts of Loneliness in August 2012.

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/urban-people-crowd-citizens-438393/ Word art Marilyn R. Gardner

Two Violinists and a Platform of Lonely People

DSCN4615If your eyes swept the platform we all looked basically the same. Oh we were all different sizes, colors, shapes; you could tell basically who was rich and who wasn’t  so rich. But our expressions? They hardly differed.

We all looked resigned.

No one smiled.

Everyone looked lost in their own worlds.

We were a platform of lonely people.

Ironically it was at that moment that two violinists set up their personal concert hall on a dirty subway platform and began playing a duet of the famous Beatles song “All the Lonely People”.

It was perfect really. The playing was stellar, the song completely capturing this platform of lonely looking people. We, the lonely, were being treated to a world-class concert and we didn’t even know it.

I wondered if anyone else saw the irony, experienced the connection between the song and the people, the melody and the faces.

That’s the thing in the city. Loneliness can’t be hidden behind beautiful clothes and houses; it’s not masked but right out there in full view. And there are times when it feels depressing, overwhelming. When there seem to be no answers to never-ending loneliness and the bleak face of a city in winter.

Worst of all is when I feel I’m a part of it – I’m one more lonely person; one more sad face in the never-ending crowds of humanity that move through the city system.

It’s times like this when I have to know there is more, have to make sure there is a human connection in my world of lonely. I find it through the homeless, Sheryl, Geoff, others who I’m slowly learning to know; through Bashkin, the fruit man – leaving for Albania to wait out the winter; through Winston, the door man at the Parker House who leaves for Haiti tomorrow; through the personal connection with a bus friend and bus driver.

It may not seem like much but it somehow helps to know faces, personalities, and a fraction of the circumstances of these – so I know where the lonely come from. So I know the lonely have a name.

The Gifts of Loneliness

The gifts of Loneliness – Fridays with Robynn

Over the years I’ve been graced with some very precious friends. This past summer I said good-bye to two of them. One is a friend with whom I share a great deal of history. We’ve been through deep suffering together. We’ve laughed a lot and cried even more over the years. The other is a newer friend but we’ve walked miles together and logged many conversations of significance.

Both are good friends. And I miss them.

Saying goodbye again reminds me of the sting of loneliness. As everyone has, I’ve endured seasons of deep loneliness. I’ve felt misunderstood, empty, alone. I used to dread loneliness. It felt dark and claustrophobic. I felt isolated. I felt sadness and pain. I hated loneliness. But lately I’ve come to recognize Loneliness as a generous benefactor. Loneliness greets me in the morning with strange and unusual mercies. She lingers in the afternoon and sits with me on the sofa and she offers me presents.

Loneliness comforts me with the reality that she cannot destroy me. I live on, even in her company. That’s reassuring—because I used to feel that she would be my undoing, my destruction, my soul’s demise. Now I know differently.

Loneliness is a type of suffering and suffering has the capacity to transform me. It produces character. It gives way to endurance. It yields to faith. Those are sweet and generous gifts.

Loneliness highlights my need. She gives me my emptiness. This is a good thing. I recognize my empty spaces and I have the opportunity to turn to God with my soul in my hands, my heart on my sleeve. This helps me see that God can really be my True Soul Friend. I can experience His Presence. Loneliness gave me that.

She gives me my humanity. She connects me to millions of others around the globe who are displaced, afraid, betrayed, abandoned. Loneliness whispers, “see you are not alone”. The pain that she brings also reminds me that I’m still alive. And I’m more fully human for having encountered her.

Loneliness shows me her ability to diminish when I take my eyes off her. She gets smaller in stature when I don’t focus or fixate on her. Conversely she grows enormous and ominous when I stare at her, when I dote on her, when I nurse her with my self-pity. She’s magical that way. That’s another of her mysterious gifts.

Perhaps the sweetest thing of all that Loneliness gives is the opportunity to receive random moments of connection with others as gifts in themselves. I can receive a deep conversation in the church lobby. I can enjoy a joke with a stranger in the grocery store. I can marvel at the various people God has given me –a kindly neighbor, a faithful postman, a humorous barista–and I can receive them with thanks. I don’t have to demand from them a forced friendship, a deeper commitment. I can walk away and be grateful for the moment of connection, the sacred spot of community. Loneliness gave me that.

I’ve just said goodbye, with sobs and tears, to my friend Ellen. She’s returning to India. And I’m staying on here. I’ve bid Ellen farewell and in the same space, filling the same place she leaves– Loneliness steps in. I also just said goodbye to Jill. Jill’s moving to a place I’ve never even visited. She’s going on new adventures without me. I’ve said farewell to Jill too and Loneliness swoops in. I’d rather Ellen and Jill had stayed. But I’ve learned to not resist Loneliness.

Thank you Loneliness. You’ve been almost kind to me.