Loneliness – it is such a desolate word. So stark, cold and comfortless. A state of solitariness that hints at a deeper aloneness, where you feel completely bereft and friendless.
As I was doodling and thinking of things to write about this month, it dawned on me suddenly that loneliness was what I'd been feeling recently, which is funny because I have an active almost-two-year-old who fills most of my time with noise, mischief and cuddles, and an awesome husband who fills the rest. I came to the sobering realisation that it is possible to be utterly lonely even when your day is packed to the hilt.
Moving to a new city hasn't helped much. I've caught myself wondering aloud (to my long-suffering husband) why I haven't been able to build a meaningful relationship with anyone. We even joke about how I'm beginning to sound like one of those ghastly teenagers who went around with friendship bracelets, asking needily, “Will you make fraandship with me?” (It's a 90's thing!)
Don't get me wrong – I'm not looking to add more people to my Facebook friends list. I'd just like to make one genuine friend. But it's like banging against an invisible wall. The people we meet are all nice and friendly, but no one makes the least effort to get to know you in a real/tangible sense.
And as I struggle with this, I've remembered the many times I've been guilty of the very same behaviour. When I was in my comfort zone, I rarely made an effort to genuinely care and connect with someone new. I'd be polite and then draw an invisible line, moving away quickly to chat up a storm with a close buddy.
I have a newfound empathy for all those new-comers in our churches who try to mingle, looking hopefully for a kind face, waiting to make a real friend; for I've realised how loneliness can hurt.
I'm so glad that the Bible says that Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Such a heart-warming thought. And His friendship is not the kind that vacillates. It is steadfast and true, genuine and loving.
I'm learning to be more like Him and the first step in that direction has been to stop my little pity party. Instead of looking to see who will “make friends” with me, I'm learning to look outward and see whom I can be a friend to. I may not meet with resounding success immediately, but if I can alleviate another's loneliness by even the smallest degree, it would be time well spent.
I'd like to encourage you to take the step of befriending someone you've met recently. Not just say “Hi” and “Bye”, but genuinely invest in building a relationship with someone new. It will take time, effort and commitment. It won't happen overnight. It will need you to proactively reach out – again and again. It might take you out of your comfort zone. Because the deep joy that alleviates loneliness is not cheaply gained. Yet, our walk as Christians is nothing if not a relationship. Our Lord repeatedly comes alongside us, giving us companionship and counsel, ensuring our journey through life is never lonely.
So I've compiled a few practical tips to help us all, but please feel free to think outside the box!
Remember her/his name.
Look out for her/him the following week and make it a point to talk.
Exchange phone numbers.
Call/text at least once during the first week.
Invite her/him for a meal and fix the day and time.
Make an effort to listen rather than talk. Pick up on the small details.
If there is some way you can help – babysit, help unpack, send food or just meet for coffee and a chat – do it. Nothing is too small or silly.
Pray for her/him and with her/him.
Introduce her/him to other friends of yours.
If you are part of a group (mums and tots, women's fellowship, men's fellowship, bible study etc.) invite her/him to join. Yes, the dynamics might change, but it might be for the better -- who knows!
Open up and share details of your life too.
May we live like Christ.
Photo Credit : Elisabetta Foco