I do hope you are well and that this blog post meets you in good, good time.
It’s been a while and I’ll be honest, I’ve drawn in on myself. Barely a handful have had access to my mind’s thoughts and there are a number of unspoken reasons why. I’ll address one of those areas though, in a slightly ‘chopping off the start and end of the story’ type of way and will just dig in to some of the many thoughts of mine.
Feel free to run your eyes along a few words I’ve managed to pull together.
I’ve come to the timely conclusion that loneliness will never leave us.
Now, I know that ultimately God fills every lonely heart and that we can feel lonely but we are never alone, but hear me out on this one…
Everyone I have spoken to from different walks and periods in their lives have all mentioned this underlying feeling. Whether it is the married woman or the married man, the woman at home nurturing and teaching her kids, the couple engaged but not yet married, the busy individuals working and establishing themselves in this work life, or the older person getting to grips with their adult children leaving the nest or all their friends slowly passing away. The string that ties all these people together is loneliness.
It’s a change in the normal. It’s the situation you are forced to adapt to or get left behind. It’s the once full and now empty feeling.
The biggest and most poignant example I can give you and can identify with personally is the transition from university life to our famous millennial word ‘adulting’ life.
University really is a bubble. Everyone is in close proximity of one another and you can really do life with one another because you are essentially in one another’s space. If you’re all doing the same course you’re bound to see one another at least a couple times each week minimum. You share food, you share music, you share time, you share you.
Yet in a busy city like London, the chances you get to meet your friends are from zero to once a month.
You no longer study the same course or live as close as you were in your dorms, so by nature your geography spreads thin. Never mind, other interests, commitments and even dependants being added to the mix. Your sphere changes and you have to change too. Everybody’s priorities have changed and so have yours.
Change exposes our hearts to the weed of loneliness
But how many of us actually talk about this with among our friendship groups or in our churches? Maybe we don’t because we don’t realise that change is what we are actually experiencing when we wonder why our friend hasn’t responded to our message or when we keep rescheduling our meet-ups or that FaceTime call which doesn’t quite equate to a real life, face to face chin wag, we realise change exposes our hearts to the weed of loneliness.
There are 3 things to help us (me) deal with change which breeds the unyielding weed of loneliness:
1. Being intentional
We are each let alone to our own responsibilities. And it’s hard but it is fact. Everyone is trying to juggle keeping friends as well as keeping jobs, families and commitments. And we won’t all get it right but maybe an honest dialogue might be a good start. It is our responsibility to be intentional in a society that thrives on going at things alone and having an every man for themselves mentality. These kind of falsehoods contribute to the many mental health issues we hear and speak about so often these days that quite frankly don’t happen as much in cultures that actually talk to one another about issues they face.
2. Ask the right questions
If you know your friends you’ll know what kind of questions to ask them. Asking the right questions will pull out the things they are choosing to tuck away. We can ask questions like: how can I best be a friend for you in this time? Or how will this new job affect x y z? Or what specific things should I be praying for? If we ask the right questions, we get to the heart of the matter of concern and begin to build that closeness we may have once felt at a time when we were closer together be it in proximity or had more time for longer conversations.
3. Dare to be vulnerable
My oh my do we have to put our first foot forward if we ever want to see change. Open the front door! If we’re feeling lonely, chances are we’re probably not sharing as much as we ought to with someone we trust. Self preservation is so real! No one is saying spill all your beans to your newest mate but share with true, proven friends. ‘Friends’ with the clause and assumption that you have done life with the person and you kinda know who they are and what they’re about. ‘Friends’ enough to share without feeling ashamed or embarrassed or an unhealthy sense of judgement (sober judgement is good, if your friend gives you wise counsel that stings but is truth, love them for it).
Loneliness in adulthood is inescapable but I know we can do well to bridge the gap if we’re just a bit more frank with one another. Keeping up appearances only damages self. Change is inevitable but a comfort I remember even as I write is God is never changing. So even if everything around looks hazy, trusting Him strengthens and builds our resilience and character. Maybe the lonely path is what the Lord will use in His infinite wisdom to graft us further into Himself…