I used to hate the quiet. Empty rooms, vacant driveways, total silence, and the overwhelming feeling of being alone. The realization would sink in and my heart would drop to my stomach. No one was home, no one was around.
There are some who may be overjoyed to be greeted with what they see as time to themselves. Then, there are individuals like myself who do not like to be greeted with what we see as nothing at all.
I am an extrovert. I thrive off of the energy of other people, and feel so refreshed when I’ve had time with a group of my friends. Meeting new people is fun, making phone calls is adventurous, and typically I am the first to introduce myself. This is who I am; open, friendly, and social. Gatherings of people are welcome and wanted, not exhausting.
So, when I moved to a missions community, I thought that I was set. There would always be someone around, and always something to do. Which, on most days, this would be accurate.
But then there are Mondays.
Mondays are off-days, our days of rest; where we do things that refresh our soul and fill our love tanks so that we can live the lives we do throughout the week. It’s on these days where you will wake up (after 10am if you’re a late riser like me) and see that several beds are empty. You’ll walk down the hallway and not see a single soul. You may see someone in the kitchen cooking with earbuds in, or you may see someone sitting in the corner with a laptop, their whole vibe putting out leave me alone.
This was devastating to me. Where has everyone gone? When will they be back? What do I do until then??
I would stare out the window, sigh, pace back and forth in my apartment, sigh. A list of things I could do would start to build in my head, and I would shoot every idea dead. Back to staring out the window.
To me, being alone was lonely. There was no distinguishing the two; if you were alone, you were lonely, but if you were not alone, you’d be fine, right?
Hilarious, because before going on the journey to deeper inner healing and identity with Jesus, I was the loneliest I had ever been. Guess what? I was surrounded by people at my loneliest.
It was when I was visiting my family’s church one Sunday morning that it was explained to me in a way I had never thought of previously. The pastor was saying that just because you are alone, does not mean you are lonely. Aloneness is being by oneself, without anyone around. Ground-breaking revelation, I know.
Have you ever looked up the definition of “lonely”? No joke, it is sad because one has no friends or company. Synonyms would be isolated, forsaken, outcast.
Good Lord, that’s about enough to make you sick to your stomach.
Loneliness can happen in a room full of people. It’s a sadness, an isolated feeling that comes over someone. It starts as a feeling, and then becomes a spirit that can lay heavily over a person.
I’ve been afflicted by loneliness, as have most of you. There was a time in my life where depression and loneliness were crushing my spirit, my mind, my body, to where it felt like my lungs were begging for air.
I let loneliness push me into aloneness. I would isolate myself, rejecting myself. So when I finally walked out of aloneness into a community of healthy, relational people, I was surprised to find there would still be this fear that would come over me whenever people weren’t around. I’ve been set free. Loneliness does not have power over me. What’s wrong?
The fear of aloneness had brought me into a state of unrest. Thus the pacing back and forth in front of the window like a puppy waiting for its owner to come home. I was not at rest with myself, and therefor not at rest when it was just me and God.
How can you draw close to God when you’re far from your own self? -St. Augustine
We need to be able to be alone, and at rest with ourselves. There will be times where it is necessary for us to be alone, to seek the face of God, and not to be stimulated by what is around us. Scripture says that Jesus often went into the wilderness for prayer (Luke 5:16), and I’m guessing the reason he went out there wasn’t because he wanted to be around a lot of people. There are times where it is good to be alone.
When we find rest with ourselves, we will no longer feel the need to search for something else to occupy our time. There will be no anxiety or fear, because we have a peace that passes all our understanding, from the Prince of Peace. It is in Him that we find our rest. “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (Psalms 62:5 NIV)
So even if you’re an extroverted lover of people as I am, when you open your door to the soft quiet of aloneness, do not be anxious. Take in the moment as it is, and let your soul be at rest with God, and with yourself. Some of the best moments where you hear Him clearest will be when you are alone, with no one around but the two of you.
Because, friend, we are never truly alone. We have always our Comforter, our Teacher, our Helper, Holy Spirit. Use the aloneness as a meeting place, where there is no expectancy, no reason to perform. It is you and Him, resting together, finding a strength in the quiet you might’ve missed before.