on being alone and loneliness ::.
you might have felt it when you were young in the playground, the last to be picked or ridiculed for being different than everyone else. being born with a dual identity like myself, you may have at one time or other responded, ‘i’m american not chinese’ in your defense to belong. sometimes you may ask, ‘who listens to me?’ when you suggest something in groups, when you labor meticulously over lesson plans and teach to apathetic learners, even when your most intimate partner, your spouse, does not respond warmly and affectionately. there’s a gnawing inside that perhaps is eating away at our souls, our very identity. we have this intense desire to be known. (“to know and be known”, john ortberg, relational intelligence, 2001). we want to know we’re worth something.
there’s a difference between being alone and loneliness. the sense of belonging is lost in loneliness replaced by rejection and fear. the great tragedy of the fall is a hostile alienation immediately experienced between the creation and God. it is man who has fallen, withdrawn from the hand of God. the creator did not let go. still, he has continued to reach out to our present confusing dislocation in this world and beyond. then there is that division between the man and the woman. the blaming solidifies that sense of rejection felt in loneliness. imagine how eve must have felt. her very identity assaulted, insulted, shattered by the man she was created for.
being alone is a different kind of awareness. it is a choice to capture our identity in Christ. it is attentiveness to an inner life, a point from which we can begin to move. solitude is not simply removing yourself physically to be in a remote far off place. in fact, it’s not about withdrawal but a place to engage. in our heart, a deep inward rest. we can face the tides of rejection because at the center of our being is this peace, that still small voice that says, you are my beloved. in loneliness we may act out of hostility. in being alone, we move from hostility to hospiltality, compassion, and love.
meditations on nouwen, reaching out