My best friend just got engaged, and I cried. Not tears of happiness, but of sadness and shame for the family I don’t have and can’t see anywhere in the near future.
Another friend got pregnant and had a baby. Both times I found out about it on Instagram. I was pissed (well, secretly hurt and rejected) about the baby because she didn’t tell me before the rest of the world.
Then I went home to see my family for a week, and we hardly said anything to each other. I haven’t seen them in a year, and we have nothing to talk about?
You may be thinking I am a terrible person. (I am still trying to convince myself I am not.)
Or maybe you can relate because one or more of your relationships are not where you want them to be.
My world is rapidly changing and has me feeling like I am getting left behind, and even worse, not included in the life-changing events of the people I care most about.
I think God intentionally wired me in a way to take relationships pretty seriously, investing time, energy, and lots of affection into them. But now I have to mourn the pieces of those relationships that are gone: planning birthday parties (now a spouse’s job), movie nights (once weekly, ending at midnight), random weekend trips (now rarely scheduled), and phone calls that get answered at any time (now postponed to when a spouse/baby is not there or not crying—generally the baby, not the spouse—generally).
I probably sound bitter, but I don’t resent my friends and their new relationships. I just feel alone.
Admitting that I am lonely usually leads to thoughts (or comments from others) like “You are healthy, can feed yourself, and at least you have some friends. This is not a real issue.” It makes me feel like the most ungrateful person in the world.
Then I ran across a statement from this article from NPR:
Loneliness isn’t just a fleeting feeling, leaving us sad for a few hours to a few days. Research in recent years suggests that for many people, loneliness is more like a chronic ache, affecting their daily lives and sense of well-being.
Every once in a while (who am I kidding, most of the time), I need validation for feeling something that seems different than the norm. One of the most common things that I say when I get validated is “Oh, thank goodness. I thought I was crazy.” Affecting their daily lives and sense of well-being. Yessss! That is exactly it. I am going to take this article as a sign that it is OK to feel like loneliness is wreaking havoc on my outwardly-appearing “good life.”
I’m not crazy after all.
The article states that “most Americans are considered lonely,” but I think there is a special place for people who are lonely and single. I am not saying that married people or people with kids can’t be lonely. It just feels like the reality of being 31 with no boyfriend in sight continues to hammer the message that I am alone and will be until I get married. It honestly makes me feel ashamed and then embarrassed that I am ashamed.
While this article provided validation about how I was feeling, when I kept reading I also thought that it fueled a sense of hopelessness and defeat. I am not a Bible scholar, but I am on a continual journey to understand the Bible and what it means for my relationship with Jesus. There is a section in a book called Romans that is labeled “Love in Action.” It says:
Rejoice with those that rejoice, weep with those that weep.
This verse clearly has a lot of empathy in it, but I see two deeper things beyond that. One is that we were all made for a deep and intimate connection with others. The second is that it takes a posture of vulnerability to ask someone into a moment where you are hurting or joyful. These are not just “intangible” things to feel with Jesus (He loves you and wants a deep connection with you), but real feelings and relationship with others around us. This gives me hope that the yearnings of my heart are not foolish but desires that were created to live within me so I can have a life of abundance and connection.
My heart’s desire is to find people and friends that I can surround myself with that feel like a community. I want a group of people that weep when I weep and rejoice when I rejoice. A place where I can pop up unannounced. Where if I mess up, someone will tell me and then forgive me, and I will do the same. Where someone will change their plans or hold a date so that I have a plus-one for weddings and holiday parties. A place that when I am sick, I can ask someone to bring me soup and a ginger ale. Where I can tell someone my deepest regret or biggest source of shame, and they look me in the eye with compassion without pulling away. In the community I am looking for, not only is it OK to ask for these things, but I can do it without feeling like a burden. I don’t have to repay or owe someone a favor for helping me out. A place where I can do all the same for them too. I know it’s natural for friendships to change, but I crave a community that will work to grow and evolve with marriage and kids and other life events that threaten to tear it apart. It would be just what we do and how we live because we prioritize each other.
That is my deepest wish, but it feels like an impossibility. Where will I find people who want that too? How do I start to build this? How do I shape it and make sure everyone understands the vision? I have zero answers for how to do this in my current environment (though these people seem to have figured it out), but I do know that if it is something I long for, God has put it in me.
It is a win for me even to realize that I am feeling lonely and acknowledge the shame, embarrassment, and yearning that comes with that. It is a double-win for me to be able to say it out loud. With sharing comes vulnerability and with vulnerability comes intimacy.
Jesus has wired me for intimate connection. It is OK for me to want more, and I am worthy to ask for more.
I am trying to start by leaning into Him for the ultimate in being known. This currently looks like me just saying, “Hey, I am lonely, and this doesn’t feel great. Can you comfort me?” It is a simple ask, but one I am hoping helps me be more known. I can also believe that if He wired this into me, he won’t hold out on me. Deeper relationships are possible.
So if you can relate, forward this to those friends that immediately came to mind and start a conversation. Risk being vulnerable with them and ask for deeper relationships. Brainstorm what it could look like for you. Make a bold move with me to fight back against the loneliness that lurks around so many of us and step into more of the powerful relationships we were designed to experience.