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Adventures in Loneliness
Iíve always had a love-hate relationship with being alone. Through time alone, God has been teaching me that being alone doesnít have to mean being lonely. It took being thrust into the arms of both during one college summer that I learned to find security in the singular.
It was the summer before my college graduation. I ventured well beyond my comfort zone after deciding to spend three months a thousand miles from the cushy realm of home, to work as a summer marina employee in Grand Teton National Park. Relishing the thought of campfires with coworkers, mountain hikes and dips in sleek, glacial streams, I inwardly mocked my pitiful friends staying home to waitress.
Airline tickets soared above my budget, so my parents agreed to drive me to the nearest Greyhound station to begin the twenty-four-hour journey across country.
Swiping away tears and the sudden panic that filled me, I said goodbye to the familiar. It was all I could do to not start bawling and run from the silver tube that would be my home for the next two days.
That journey was the beginning of a long summer of aloneness and loneliness where God met me and defined my worth, not by who surrounded me, but by the presence and value He gave me. I was utterly alone for two arduous days while packed into a bus roaming the plains and mountains of the U.S. When the trip ended I was deposited at the park and placed into a dormitory void of all other workers--many would arrive later. There was a natural playground beckoning to me and free rafting trips and horse rides to fill my days off, but the catch was, I had to do it all--alone.
My heart cringed at this prospect. I didnít want to be alone. That meant thinking--dealing with my real insecurities, not looking cool. It was with envy that I eyed couples laughing and cuddling--everyone but me seemed to have a friend. Being so alone made me feel lonely, homesick, and ignited an ache to be known.
At first, I rebelled. Instead of venturing to the cafeteria buzzing with the din of friends talking and laughing, I went broke at the expensive grocery store and ate in my room. Fearing what others would think of this girl who was always alone, I began defining my worth by my lack of friends, and I came up wanting. Though the thought was erroneous, it permeated my thoughts.
After a few rock bottom days working on the marina, listening to my co-workersí drug and alcohol escapades and returning to my coldly quiet dorm roomóalone, I finally did what God wanted all along. I asked Him to be my friend, my companion. I asked for help.
That time opened my heart to my heavenly Father in new ways. I learned to be secure in myself despite having no one to talk to, no one who truly knew me, and an unknown three months stretching before me.
I realized it was okay and natural to want to be known, to have intimate relationships that are real and deep, but I found a healthy balance. God gently showed me that those relationships donít decide my cool-factor, nor do they determine my worth. With or without them, I am whole because of Christís desire for me. In those moments of aloneness and loneliness, I learned to turn to God for my identity and purpose.
It was a lesson in learning to see the value in others as well. At that point, there was no room for pride in my heart, for sifting through so-called ďundesirableĒ people in order to be seen only with those I considered hip. The drifters, old men working one seasonal job after the next, with their random conversations at mealtimes, no longer bothered me so much. In fact I began welcoming conversations with the drug and alcohol addicts that abounded in the park. And moments alone wedged next to a tree overlooking the mountains became a date with Jesus, a time I began to savor.
When roommates did arrive from other hamlets around the U.S., I definitely appreciated the change. But the difference was, I was confident and secure with or without them.
These are lessons Iím continually relearning. Now, a married woman in a new town, Iíve felt the steely grip of loneliness and self-pity creeping back in. When Iím tempted to cling too tightly to my husband or shake my fists at a God who leaves me friendless and out of my comfort zone, Iím reminded of those summer days not so long ago.
God met me where I was and gave me what I truly neededóHe gave me Himself. Sometimes, after a long walk through the park with my Savior, I forget Iím alone. And when loneliness taps on the door of my heart, it reminds me to turn my eyes on Jesus--to find fulfillment and companionship in Him.
My prayers for fellowship in this new town have begun to bear fruit, but itís strange how it canít satisfy in the same way that time with God can.
I suppose itís because no one knows me quite like He does.
Casey Manes writes for the marketing department of a Chicago area university. Read more of her writing at www.winsomewords.blogspot.com.
When sheís not cutting her own hair, she enjoys freelance writing, reading classics and being outdoors
All articles used with permission from Beautiful One Magazine, LLC, 2007.
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