Home Alone, Conclusion
Today we finish our current series about loneliness. Loneliness is an experience of alienation and isolation that’s painful and much more complex than simply being without company.
No matter how acute we feel it, it is only an emotion, a feeling. We can’t let feelings rule our lives. Psychologists tell us that it is helpful to name and know our feelings, and very important to try to understand them.
God created us to live with him and other people. Loneliness was not a part of the experience God designed for us. But then sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the original sin. This sin almost immediately leads to alienation, three-fold alienation – from others, from ourselves and ultimately from God.
Last week we looked at our alienation from others. And we suggested ways that you might learn and grow in faith together, as God intended, by talking about our faith with like-minded people using the Message Matters offered on our website and in our weekly email newsletter. This might simply be your family or maybe just a couple friends.
Today we’ll look at our alienation from ourselves and from God.
We are often literally not comfortable in our own skin. When Adam and Eve sinned, they discovered that they were “naked” and became ashamed. They are ashamed of their own skin. God didn’t make the fig leaf loincloths, they did. And we all still share in the result of that sin.
It sounds strange to say that we are alienated from ourselves because, wherever you go, you are there. You can’t get away from you, so how can you be alienated from yourself? But we know it’s true. We say things like: “I’m not myself today.” “I just can’t seem to get it together lately.” “Part of me wants to and part of me doesn’t.” There is simply a lack of harmony in us.
This is not just indecisiveness, its conflict. We’ve all seen the cartoons with an angel sitting on one shoulder and a devil on the other. It’s funny because it’s so universal. We often find ourselves with the very best of intentions but unable to live them out. We want to eat healthier, spend more time with the kids, do better at work or school. And yet despite our good intentions we can’t do it.
This alienation within ourselves is the result of sin and it causes the conflict we experience. St. Paul says it directly in his letter to the Romans that he does not do what he wants and does what he does not want because of “sin that dwells in” him. It’s the same for all of us.
In today’s reading from Leviticus we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves and Jesus takes it a step farther in the gospel that we should even love our enemies. Our ability to love others depends on our ability to love and care for ourselves.
Today we’ll also look at how trusting God strengthens and heals our relationship with him. Your ability to love God and others will only match your ability to love yourself.
We human beings, all of us, in essence are made up of three parts: mind, body, and soul. Your body is your flesh, your physical nature. You care for your body with food and drink, rest, exercise, and good health practices.
You care for your mind where your thoughts and feelings reside through study and exposure to things such as art or music.
Then there is the soul. It’s your essence, it’s your spirit. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that integrates and enlivens every aspect of you. In communion with God a person with a healthy soul knows how to integrate the different aspects of their body and mind.
An unhealthy soul doesn’t. And that’s a problem. Jesus warns: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” Of course the answer is it profits you nothing at all to acquire or achieve anything, even everything, at the expense of a healthy soul. We see this all the time with celebrities who achieve fame and fortune, beauty and success, but who crash & burn…not because they’re unlucky. It’s because they’re pursuing all this other stuff at the expense of their souls.
The key to really loving ourselves in a way that is not just selfish and self-deceptive, is to care for our souls.
I’ll suggest some ways that you might do that.
First I would suggest that you speak to your soul. You may be thinking, “I’m not going to talk to myself.” But you already do, you say things like, “How could I have been so stupid?” “What was I thinking?” That’s talking to yourself, and usually it doesn’t really help.
But I didn’t say talk to yourself, I said talk to your soul. Psalm 42 even offers the line “why are you downcast, my soul, why do you groan within me” So talking to your soul is not a foreign idea and is a way to step back from whatever situation you’re in and be objective about it, and to be mindful of the presence of God which naturally leads to prayer. So – pray.
Sometime this week something is going to go wrong, maybe lots of things and you’ll be upset. Recognize from where these feelings originate and try to step back and talk it through with your soul remembering that God is present with you. You are not alone.
I’d hope that you can practice not being hurried. There’s not much difference between hurried and harried. Busyness is almost inevitable at certain stages of life. Busy is an outward condition, an objective fact, but hurried is an entirely subjective one. It’s a choice. I’m sure that you can bring to mind what the difference between busy and hurried looks like.
Being busy means you have a full schedule with lots of things to do. Being hurried means you are not fully present to anything you do, multitasking, distracted from what is before you and never present to those you’re with.
Busyness can be physically demanding but hurriedness is spiritually exhausting. Jesus was often busy, but never hurried. Practice slowing yourself down. It’s easy to say and may be hard to do, but schedule yourself wisely, don’t over commit, observe the speed limit, don’t text while you drive, be patient with those who don’t operate at your speed.
Alienation from God is closely tied to our alienation from self. There is a single word which should characterize our relationship with God and every other healthy relationship we have. The word is trust and its absence is what brought sin into the world and brings loneliness.
I said earlier that loneliness isn’t just being alone. It’s helpful if you can embrace solitude. In solitude, we are alone and we don’t try to accomplish anything. It might be sitting quietly before the Lord in adoration, or at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee in the morning. Walking on the beach can be that time for you. This is not time to descend into worry, or dwell on what’s not going right, just a little quiet time, to be mindful and thankful before God. Five or six minutes a day can have a big impact on the health of your soul. God speaks to us in the silence that we can find in solitude.
Your soul is what integrates all other parts of you. And, a healthy soul blesse us with order out of the chaos we experience. The grace of a healthy soul helps us understand we’re never really alone after all because the soul is in the presence of God. Trust in God dispels the feelings of loneliness that we are all alone and on our own.
Overcoming our loneliness can often be as simple as trusting God in simple ways, seeing God in all things. Recognizing and then proceeding to act as if, in fact, we are not alone.
Serious Christ followers are all about what he told us to be about: life change and transformation. That can happen most efficiently and effectively in a group, where you’re known and loved, by other people who are trying to do exactly what you’re trying to do. Gather with your family or some friends and use our weekly Message Matters. You may find your faith grow and a new fellowship develop with others.
Over and over again, God challenges us to trust him and he wants us to do so. He allows situations in our life in which we don’t have the resources, or the talent, or the knowledge, or the imagination, to make things work the way we want. To move forward we must depend on him.
But he won’t force us. When we insist on trying to make life work on our own, he allows us that freedom. And we quickly learn that it doesn’t really work. Arranging your life without God produces anxiety, produces worry, it produces loneliness. You were never meant to live like that.
You can work hard and do what you need to do, but trust God with the outcomes. He proves that he is trustworthy through our trials and we grow in faith and in trust.
God is calling you to trust him with your life. If there is an area of life that you think you know better than God, tell God this week that you trust him with it. Or if all you can do is say, God, I don’t trust you yet with this part of my life, but I want to trust you. Then tell him that but be honest, you aren’t going to fool him anyway.
Then let go of whatever it is. Take that step and you will see that God is trustworthy.
No matter what, we’re never really alone. We live our lives in the presence of God.
So, speak to your soul, pray, practice not being hurried, embrace solitude, and trust God who made you and keeps you in existence and leave all loneliness behind.