Monday, January 04, 2010

Alone (Not Alone)

I started reading Anne Jackson's blog infrequently probably six months ago, and following it regularly sometime in the last few months.  I've mentioned before that I appreciate her honesty, and her discussion of mental health issues.  You don't find many Christians, and particularly not many with a certain degree of public position who are willing to admit mental health struggles, and as someone who dealt with depression for many years, has family members with fairly extreme mental health struggles, and continues to wrestle with anxiety and panic issues at times, I've appreciated that public discussion - that breaking of the stigma.

Today the title of the post on her blog is "Do You Feel Alone?"  She poses the question, "In what area of your life do you feel most alone?"  The comments have been interesting to read today.

I've spent much of the last two years fairly deliberately secluded.  Partly because my heart was broken.  Partly because my broken heart destroyed my physical health and my destroyed health and limited energy left few options for socialization.  Partly because I was longing for what had been, fighting for it, crying and aching over it.  And finally, because, when I began to see the end, my heart was so shattered that I was terribly afraid to risk opening it again.

I belonged once.  There was a place where my heart fit - where I wasn't strange, and the way my gifts operated complimented the way the gifts of those around me operated.  That place fell apart, for a myriad of reasons, different, I suppose for each person you ask - I certainly have my own thoughts on the matter.

Two years passed, and mostly I hid and waited and cried.

I talked a lot with a very few dear friends, scattered around the country.

And with Jesus.  Actually I did a lot of shouting at Jesus, wondering why I could have something so beautiful one moment, and then have it blown to hell the next.  Maybe what I had became an idol.  I think at times I missed that - that sense of belonging - more than I missed the places Jesus led us.  More than I missed Jesus.

It's only in the last six months that I've begun to again long for community.  Not any longer only the specific community that I had, but simply community.  To again be part of the body of Christ.  To have that thing where there is someone in the same city you can call and ask to pray on a hard day.  Someone to meet for coffee and talk about where Jesus is showing up in the midst of day to day life.

I started attending church again - at least irregularly.  I know, I know, "good" Christians go to church.  (Insert my eye roll, and perhaps a whole dissertation on how exactly church is defined here.) The hiatus I took was maybe one of the most healing things I could have done.  I've spent my whole life in church.  The running joke as a child of a pastor was that the only Sunday that I'd ever missed church was the one I was born on.  (It was pretty close to the truth.)  I'd spent my whole life doing, and performing and being.  And my heart had been shattered.  Over and over.  By Christians. 

The time away was time to heal.  To fall in love again with the Jesus who met me in a dark car four years ago and healed seven years of intense depression in a moment.  The Jesus who cared enough to set up little things.  The Jesus who loved me enough to let at least one really important relationship remain, and grow stronger.  I fell in love with him again, and it began to feel like the most natural longing in the world, as an outpouring of that love, to long again to be in His church, his body.

(It helps, I suppose that in university I studied history, and fell in love with the church - with this institution that had so many faults, but so many glowing moments.)

I've found a house church that I'm pretty sure I'm going to grow to love.  But right now, it is one of the places where I feel most alone.  It's a small group, and they've been together for a while.  I'm the new person, and it's awkward.  That thing where you're the outsider who doesn't know all the little histories and personality quirks that lead to conversations and humor.  I'm also an introvert.  That definitely doesn't help.  I'm not shy, but I find small talk boring, and I can only talk about my job for so long before I want to kill things (I like my job, but I sure don't want to spend my evenings talking about it all the time).  The little familiar moments make me ache inside for two reasons.  The first is that my heart really is longing to again share community, friendships, relationship, with people who love Jesus and are interested in searching out his heart.  The second is that it stirs longings for what I had.

So, for now, I walk this middle ground.  Not quite belonging anywhere.

And perhaps the most encouraging thing in the midst of it is the truth a dear friend reminds me of regularly.  "I am not alone."  I walk with Jesus, with a few friends and a family who love me deeply simply for who I am, and with angels and a whole communion of saints who have gone before.  "Never alone" my friend reminds me.  And, on a night like tonight when I am lonely, that is perhaps the most beautiful reminder possible.


Anonymous said...

That was lovely!

Oh, and your comment about "only a year" being aiming low or something - that's because no one comes for just a year and doesn't decide they don't want to be here longer...ha ha. I figured a year's an easier "sell" ;-)

Hugs, friend!

Lisa said...

thanks friend :)

I'll take those hugs!

a year huh? well, let's start with me managing to get there for a couple of days or a week, and go from there :)

Anne Jackson said...

Thanks for linking, and sharing part of your story...

Lisa said...

Thanks for stopping by Anne!