Facing Loneliness

The writings of Henri Nouwen have been filling my meditation and challenging me to consider how we can spiritually survive our journey today.

“Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. … When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch or no record to play, and when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again.”
-Henri J. M. Nouwen
Reaching Out (first published 1975)

Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. And what you want to give me is love — unconditional, everlasting love. Amen.
-Henri Nouwen
With Open Hands (first published 1972)

When I put down my phone,
When I turn off the news,
When I take a break from the Netflix show I am binging,
When I try to get quiet inside,

My hands twitch towards my pocket or bag
As I try to find that smooth device that keeps me tethered to …

What is it I’m yearning to be tethered to:
Reality? Busyness? The avoidance of pain or fear?
What is it that I’m seeking to fill up the emptiness inside of me?

They say God created us with a God-shaped hole inside of us.
And then I put everything I can into that place
So that I don’t have to feel lonely or anxious or empty.

God is calling me to reclaim the disciplines that I have forgotten.
For me, they are sabbath, silence, and breathing.

What are the disciplines to which you’re being called?

4 thoughts on “Facing Loneliness”

  1. Thank you, Beth! I love it when God shows up with answers to my very state of being….awwwww, Sabbath.

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  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about this myself and spending much time sitting in my swing in our side yard and trying to just enjoy what I see and experience. Often as I experience the changing light I want to have my camera in my hands, or my phone. I wonder why I feel this intense need to capture what I see…why sometimes it’s not enough just to see it, drink it in and be blessed by it. I had these similar thoughts while walking the bike path and noticing how “noisy” my mind gets even when I try to focus on hearing God. Thank you for your words that let me know I’m not alone in this struggle. Henri Nouwen is a favorite who I turn to often. Have a blessed day, Beth!

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