My parents shipped me off to Thailand at the tender age of 14. Let’s just say that I was not an easy kid. Kidding. (Sorta.) That sounds harsh; let me explain. In the summer of 2000, my parents encouraged me to join Teen Mania, a youth mission organization, on a month-long expedition to Thailand. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this trip would be my first significant encounter with loneliness and it would change my life. My community sponsored me to go on this adventure (I will be forever grateful) and before I knew it, I was sitting by myself on a plane to training camp in Garden Valley, TX. I remember walking around the red dirt grounds of the camp, feeling the most poignant sense of loneliness that I had ever experienced in my short life thus far. But one day, it all changed. I was laying in the grass, feeling sorry for myself and trying to read my Bible, when God showed up. It was the first time that I really faced Him on my own and it changed everything.
Fast forward 15 years… in the spring of 2014 my marriage fell to pieces. I lost my best friend, the man I had loved with my whole being for 10 years. It was sudden and dramatic and it left every part of me broken. Physically, I was surrounded by family, friends, and a very noisy infant, but I still felt utterly alone in this harsh, new, husbandless reality. The months that I was supposed to spend adjusting to first time motherhood, I spent adjusting to single parenthood. The person whom I had given the deepest parts of myself for my entire adult life no longer wanted to be a part of my life. No longer wanted me. The rejection was profound and the betrayal devastating, but it was equally difficult to adjust to the absence of someone who (rightly or wrongly) filled so many of the empty spaces of my life for a decade.
Loneliness. Aloneness. Rejection. This is the trifecta of great fears for some. It was for me too. It has taken me 3 years to realize what a gift they can be. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wish a broken marriage on my worst enemy. However, for me, that loneliness gave me space. Space to figure out who I am apart from another human being. Space to figure out who God is (how can He and suffering coexist?) Space to develop a different kind of relationship with Jesus—a monogamous romance. Loneliness is teaching me that I cannot rely on an earthly, fallible being to be my source (of life, worth, joy, fulfillment—you name it.) I did that once and it left me shattered.
So I guess what I’m saying, friends, is that I wish you space (whatever that looks like for you). Space to learn about who you are, apart from the people around you and the physical roles that we often allow to define our identities. Space to know that you are deeply loved, even when you do not love yourself. Space to know that whichever storms you weather (and there will be storms), you have an anchor. And if you are like me and going through a lonely season, my wish for you is that the loneliness will ultimately show you that you are never alone.