Loneliness. Just this week while meeting with several wonderful young missionaries, the troubling word "loneliness" surfaced. Having left her friends and family in the Midwest to live and serve in Africa, she begged the question, "What do I do with my loneliness?" Now that is quite a question; isn't it?
What is exactly does one do with this nebulous personal empty feeling of inner remote isolation? I offered a consideration, "What are the benefits of your loneliness?" Facial responses showed puzzlement. "Really," one responded, "Really, benefits?" A wonderful conversation ensued.
Value for Closer. Another young missionary blurted out, "Well, this loneliness sure reminds me that even though I am lonely, there are people in my life who care for me." His lovely young wife sitting next to him squeezed his hand gazing intently into his eyes. While the couple felt pain of Midwest friendships drifting away due to three years of living in Africa, they valued fewer yet closer relationships.
Empathy for Lonelier. Simon & Garfunkel released their smash hit song I Am an Island in 1966. The words at the end of the song offer rational for loneliness, "And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries." Once while visiting an old dying Zulu man in an African hospital in South Africa I asked, "How can I pray for you?" His reply in Zulu deafened me, "There is no one but me. I lay here on this bed alone by myself."
Before that old dying Zulu man stood a young missionary, me, who entered that 100 bed ward lonely and empty. Five years serving in South Africa drained me. In the midst of ministry and throngs of people, loneliness stalked. Yet, before me lay a hopeless, empty dying old Zulu man reaching out for succor.
Appreciation for Inestimable. "May I sing for you?" I asked the old Zulu man. His cloudy eyes smiled as I began to sing an old Zulu hymn, "Ngingenwe eMoyeni Wam." As I sang, that old man breathed his last breath right there in front of me. I left the hospital those many years ago appreciative for my Kathy, my sons, and my few inestimable friends. Friends I seemed to often overlook. For many, God surrounds us with friends. Often, we just fail to see them in our own busied pursuits.
Thankfulness for Awareness. Those young missionaries missed terribly their families, friends, and loved ones. In their pain, a new awareness sprang up. Surrounding them in that room were loving caring people. Outside that building, others existed in their friendship-realms too. And, now, relationships overseas in a new country among a diversely different people germinated. Blessed . . .
Loneliness produces benefits. It perhaps requires during life's journey that one stops and looks behind their loneliness-rock. A huge obstruction occluding friends in close unseen proximity. Behind that rock often springs forth what was always present; friends.
Just My Thoughts,
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.