A nine year old boy, shoulders hunched forward, tears in his eyes as he trudges towards school. Life isn't fair, his parents don't understand and all he wants is the safety of his home and his mom and for things to go back the way they were when he was five.
A ten year old girl who has to be the adult around her mom because her mom isn't being the adult any more. She keeps the money safe, she tries to watch out for her mom and her little sister, because she loves them. She hopes and prays to a God she doesn't know, that somehow, in some way they could be a family like she sees on tv and reads about in books. She pleads not to be sent to another foster home.
The middle aged lady who has had a tough life, and she hasn't dealt with it well. She's allowed bitterness to root into her heart, into her life. And now no one likes to be around her. All her children have moved far away, and no one stops by just for coffee and a visit.
A wife with hurt in her eyes. Children who test all she's made of and a husband who checked out emotionally on her a long time ago. Her youth is slipping away and all she does is give herself for this family. She didn't know it would be like this, that she would feel so alone, so emotionally abandoned. But she does, and she doesn't know the way back to life and hope and companionship.
The widow with a car that's broken down. "He" used to take care of all these things. He would take it some place every Autumn for a tune-up to make sure it was running ok for winter. And now it's broken and she is beside herself with grief again, angry that he had to die so early. She thinks again to herself, "It doesn't get easier, it just get's different."
The twenty something guy who's not as bright as everyone else is, and he knows it. He can't ask a girl to go out with him because he isn't the pick of the litter. He doesn't have any guy friends either, because his social skills aren't the best. He's sure all he's doing is scaring people away.
Or the teenager being pushed and taunted down the street by a group of kids. One feels the power and wants to show off by beating this kid up. The others cheer him on, mob rule taking over, they want to see blood. I see the fear in the boys face as I drive by, he breaks into a run. By the time I turn around, they've scattered.
The thing they all have in common? They are all experiencing loneliness. Absolute aloneness. The feeling that they are all alone in this big wide wild world, and they can't do anything about it. It comes in waves, and they don't always know it as loneliness, but it is.
I sometimes wish it could be like that Mel Gibson movie "What Women Want" where he was able to hear the inner feelings of the women who were near by. What if we could hear what those around us were thinking or feeling. I suspect we would be overwhelmed by the pain and anguish each of us regularly covers up.
We are born alone and we die alone. It is truly a blessing if we have people who love us near this entry and exit time of our lives. In between the two we grow and exist. We meet others, we experience life and love and again, if we are blessed, we have people in our lives who love us enough so that loneliness isn't a great part of life.
Now, I'm pretty comfortable with my own company, but it is my firm belief that we were not created to be alone. We were always created to be in relationship, in community with others. That's how we were made.
Then God said, "Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life--the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals."
So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.
God never said "I'm going to make people in my image." He said "Let us make..." Let us make. So even within the Godhead there was community, relationship and fellowship.
God exists within a community that is himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Don't hurt your head on this one now). And he has created us in his image. We too need to find our sense of belonging within community or relationship.
Outside of such a group, our hearts pine and ache and we experience absolute aloneness. We weren't created to live that way, and that's why it hurts so much when we are living outside community.
We were made to ache when we are alone.
The boy on his way to school, the girl taking care of her mom, the lady who is friendless, the wife who feels abandoned, the widow with the broken car, the guy who feels he has nothing to offer, the teenager being chased by a mob.
We were made to ache when we are alone.
Because we live in such a broken world, loneliness is more prevalent than we realize. We change relationships like we change our socks, and sometimes just as often. Into this brokenness rides our redeemer, Jesus Christ, with his body the church.
For all the stupid things the church has done down through the ages, it was always God's hope and Christ's prayer that we might be together in this.
"I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. 21 My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father--that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.
At the very least, the church should be a place on this earth where relationship can be found. If individuals cannot find relationships in the world, they should always be able to find relationships within Christ's body.
And in this community relationship that we share with God and each other, we should experience fulfilment, growth, life, and blessing. Yeah, bumps and bruises too, but in a healthy place they will also lead to growth and life.
I think we need to go back to the drawing board on this one. If our churches are not places where relationships and friendships can flourish and grow, we need to check what we think we're doing.
And then we need to change it, so that community can happen, relationships can grow, and loneliness can be banished to the pit where it came from.