I stood upon a towering hill
And all around the world was still
And I was all alone.
Then every friend I ever knew
Passed slowly by and from my view
Until at last there was but one
Who did not laugh and turn and run
And leave me all alone.
It seemed so strange, but was not so,
That you would be the last to go.
For you had known me in the past
And shared my sorrows to the last
And you know why when day is done
And shadows hide a setting sun
That I am all alone.
– Bernadine Shotts
This beautiful poem is by my friend, Bernie, who is 88 years old. She had a difficult childhood marked by a mother whose emotional instability left Bernie feeling unwanted and unloved, though her persevering father helped carry her through. She was married three times- 5 years, 41/2 years, and 4 years respectively. Each time her husband died, leaving her widowed the last time in 1977 at the age of 48. She has one child, a son, who is developmentally disabled. Jeff is his name. He had to be placed in institutional care while still a child due to the specialized care he required. Bernie has known “alone” and the sorrow of having people one loves removed from her life. But her faith is so deep, her soul content, her perseverance honed to a fine edge, and her willingness to be there for others is selfless. She is a role model for me and others of living graciously with the reality of life.
Loneliness and Aloneness are two different things……much like the difference between Woundedness and Brokenness….it’s more a matter of perception, the ability to distinguish between the two, and to discern the purpose for it. Any one of us who has experienced the existential “aloneness” of life, whether by virtue of physical loss of companionship and emotional safety due to the death or abandonment of loved ones or of simply feeling misunderstood, rejected, or “different” yearns to know that we are not really alone. Loneliness and Aloneness are two different things……much like the difference between Woundedness and Brokenness….it’s more a matter of perception and ability to discern the purpose for it.
When one knows Christ, one is never truly alone. He said he would never leave us….and he doesn’t. I have come to believe that God gives to some people the capacity for an extraordinary sensitivity to his presence, a small window into Heaven and eternity, but in doing so one must also bear the burden of feeling entirely alone at times in this physical realm. I know some of them. I believe God has given me the ability to hear their “aloneness” and to speak comfort into their lives and help them find peace with the reality of being one chosen for this gift of intimate communion with God and to help them make peace with the isolation of knowing that one is not created for this world, but is truly an alien, a foreigner, a sojourner in a strange land. I observe this same ability to comfort and encourage in people like my former Christian counselor (now retired), another beloved friend in counseling, and in Bernie. Any one who has ever felt that despair of “aloneness” is at home with Bernie.
Many who abuse alcohol or drugs, it seems to me, are stuck in the pain of isolation, either in the physical reality of their lives or in the existential reality of their souls…..The pain of it can be unbearable and drives some to numb with chemicals or chase other remedies like work, wealth, power, or companionship with anyone, even some who are least capable of meeting the need in them.
In addition to those who “comfort with the comfort they have been given”, there are those who are blessed with the spiritual gift of “hospitality”, like my Sweet friend, Pammi Nevins, also sense and respond to this yearning in the hearts of others…I have observed how she has brought that gift to so many during the fourteen years that she has lived among us here in Lynn Haven! She will be greatly missed.as she and her husband prepare to return to live in New Mexico to bring their special gift of Presence to their parents and others there.
I think one reason I am so committed to evangelism, discipling, and community is that it is one path (and I believe the BEST path!) to healing for the deep wound of aloneness….Coming into a personal relationship with Christ and learning to be among others who are seeking that same personal relationship with Christ through the Body of Christ we call the “church” has been so valuable to me and many whom I know, we want to offer that to others.