The book arrived in the mail the day before my birthday.
“The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God,” by the venerable Elizabeth Elliot.
Yeah, it’s a good friend who sends you a book on loneliness for your birthday. Because she knows what I don’t have to say, that these past years of being uprooted and transient have left me untethered.
And she hears it in my voice when we meet for drinks, the words I can’t articulate. That after moving around a couple dozen times, and having another babe and traveling for work and play, it’s finally quiet enough for me to realize this painful truth.
It’s lonely sometimes walking the road of faith.
You can keep yourself busy and distracted and there’s enough noise in this world to never have to be alone with your thoughts, but on a cool summer night, my voice cracks when I tell another friend that I’m just. so. lonely.
It’s not a loneliness that needs to be fixed with people and activity. I’ve got a tribe and a half that I could ring up and I know they’d pick up.
It’s a loneliness that comes from walking into the uncharted paths of faith, stepping away from the group even as you step toward your Beloved.
It’s a loneliness that comes from not being able to fully express all that you’re experiencing. Because even the best of friends can only stand by you, but you have to do the walking on your own.
It’s a loneliness that comes from being called into the silence. Or in our case, forced into the silence. When you’re a few miles out of town and your most frequent visitors walk on four legs, you’ve got some time to think.
“Turn your loneliness into solitude and your solitude into prayer.”
I’m crazy underlining the whole book but that line smacks me right square across the eyes. Because don’t we all want to have a pity party when we’re feeling lonely and alone and just plain forgotten?
But E.E., future soul sister that she is, she never minces words. And she’s not one to let you sit in your tear-bath, affirming just how hard your life must be. Here’s a woman who buried two husbands, one who was violently murdered by tribesmen and she’s calling me up and out of this self-pitying wallowing I’m doing.
Yes, life is lonely. In and out of season. And perhaps if more of us admitted it, we wouldn’t feel so alone, so different, and disconnected. But no matter what valleys and storms we walk through, we always have a choice about how we’ll respond.
This loneliness, it might be the best gift Abba gives me this year. Because that first year out of college, yeah, it was something lonely being a small girl in a big city. But oh the sweetness of learning to lean on Jesus. Even the grandest Tiffany’s box wouldn’t come close to expressing the worth of that gift.
Loneliness feeds our insecurities. It’s a relentless loop of saying we’re too much, not enough, undesirable, easily forgettable, wasting the one life we have and wandering aimlessly
Solitude takes that loneliness and it transforms it with purpose. It calls us to be fed, to rise up, and join our Maker in the quiet stillness.
The quiet isn’t something we’re used to these days. We’re uncomfortable with being disconnected from the 24/7 update of the world around us. But as connected as we are with the little computers in our hands, this world is feeling more and more lonely. And all that loneliness in the midst of the cacophony of noise, it’s slowly killing us.
What if the loneliness is really an invitation into solitude with Abba? An invitation away from noisy nothing and into uninterrupted, soul-settling time for you to encounter Him? Even that Carpenter-Savior, He made a point to get away from the crowds and get some quiet with His Dad. Like maybe He knew it was the life-blood to His daily outpouring.
There’s a danger in becoming so busy reading about Him, talking about Him and even working for Him, that we actually miss experiencing Him.
That book of Lament, it nudges us towards this way of seeing loneliness as a gift.
They say youth is wasted on the young and maybe too the quiet sitting and waiting. We’re all hurry-up-and-get-it-done now, just so we can wait later. But what if the best part of our youth could be spent in silence, without phones, without friends, alone, inviting and waiting for the presence of the Almighty?
Even the thought of that has me speechless.
Moses asked to see the Glory of the Lord, and you know God just shakes His head and is thinking, “Oh Mo, you don’t know what you’re asking.” So He tucks him into a cleft of rock and hides Him until He’s passed, letting Moses see His back. Anything else and Moses will die.
What if this loneliness we’re living in is really Abba hiding us in the cleft of the rock just before He shows us the back of His glory?
What if this season of feeling hidden and cut off really is just one big gift, offering us the vital time of steeping in the presence of the eternal God?
It is no small thing to sit and wait for the Lord to come and meet with us. It may be in the early hours as the dawn is breaking through and all the house has yet to stir. Or in the night, when the day has finally run it’s course.
Whenever the time, will we sit, wait and pray, that our loneliness might be turned into an intimate encounter with the Holy of Holies?
I walk outside with my Man and we stand quietly arm in arm under the cool night sky, gazing up at the stars and marveling at how big it is and small we are. And enjoying the quiet of it all.