Tuesday, June 28, 2016

When We Feel Lonely

Yesterday I felt a little lonely. Not the deep loneliness many feel in our world, but that sense of isolation that creeps in from time to time. One ongoing reason this pops up for me is that my work has been a major people-connecting venue for so long, for years in a physical office, where I made some of my best friendships, but now primarily online as I work in a home office. On some days, I get no work communication from the outside. No calls, no email, no texts.

So sometimes this working-by-myself life feels a little lonely. I have family and others around me, I have clients all over the country, but their jobs, after all, are not to keep me from ever feeling isolated!

What to do? 

While waiting for a new freelance project scheduled to come in today, I started looking at some writers’ conference websites. Maybe that's what I need. To go talk with people in my publishing tribe. Oh, look! I know some of those people on the faculty! Or at least, I kind of know them or would like to know them. It might be fun to be there. In truth, the main reason I’ve attended writers’ conferences has been to hang out with publishing people, not to learn more about writing or to pitch proposals to authors or agents. But that once-or-twice-a-year opportunity might not be the best reason to spend money.

Yes, I’ve read all the advice for those of us who work alone from home (and that includes stay-at-home parents or others who are at home most of the time): join online and community groups, find a coworking space, go to the library or a coffee shop or a park. Have lunch and coffee dates with friends. In other words, go where you’ll find some people. Get out with people you know. 

But to be honest, working best in almost absolute quiet with a job that has multiple deadlines works against all that. Even the volunteer work I do tends to be on my laptop. In addition, being introverted (too much interaction with or close proximity to lots of people can drain me) is a challenge, and I know I'm not the only person out there wired this way. Introversion spills into how we do church, how comfortable we are in groups, and how often we open our homes despite all the sermons we've heard on hospitality.

When I begin to bug myself with insecurities, I sometimes turn to Scripture to remind myself what God thinks about them. (He and I have had a lot of practice with my insecurities.) BibleGateway.com told me the NIV translation of the Bible has 2,690 references to people, so, um, I decided to look up the word lonely instead. A verse in Psalms jumped out at me among the four references I found.

The psalmist is talking about all the ways God has saved his people, and right in the middle he says “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6 NIV). Of course, I first thought of families as people who live together in one unit, who do life with one another every day in the same household. But he doesn’t say God sets the orphans, those who have no family at all, in families (though he does that too); he says God sets the lonely in families. Maybe he’s talking, too, about placing us with people outside our household or even extended families who can help make us feel less isolated. People we can help feel less isolated too.

People need people; God made us that way. But sometimes, for all kinds of reasons (and excuses), we can cut ourselves off from people way too much. That’s something for any of us who sometimes feel a little lonely or isolated to think about. Does God want to put us among a family outside our own but we’ve been too blind to see?

Perhaps, for those of us who sometimes feel isolated, it’s time to seek out more family, to ask God where he wants us, to make an effort we've never thought about before.

The Bible also says God knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21), and maybe for any of us, it’s best for the secret of felt isolation to be handed over to the One who sets the lonely in families, no matter the cause of our isolation. To put one foot after another as he leads us to seek out people he chooses to keep us going. To offer, too, people-need-people connection to others.

photo credit:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=104003&picture=person-alone-on-the-beach

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