07 January 2015

a sense of unbelonging

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God . . .
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
-Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16
I feel lonely pretty often. Actually, it's not so much a sense of being alone as of being lost. I don't fit in here, I think, wherever here happens to be. It can happen when I am literally alone, and I start to feel unsure of myself. Wait, am I doing anything worth caring about? Am I just floating around aimlessly? Am I anchored to anything important? Loneliness can also descend when I am surrounded by people. I suddenly realize that I have nothing to say to them. (On those sort of occasions, I simply want to crawl into bed with a nice book and pretend that other people don't exist at all. If they didn't, you see, I would not have to worry about how to connect with these other weird creatures called humans. I don't belong here so can I just please leave.)

Summertime by Edward Hopper
The two types of loneliness often feed into each other, so that I go for several days feeling as if I'm trapped in a soap bubble, able to see the world outside, unable to reach through and touch it. In fact, I can't even remember being able to touch it . . . maybe I've been this way forever?

Then the bubble breaks and I remember that yes, I do love people! They love me! And I'm part of the holy church of God and He has good works for me to do here!

The moments of loneliness recur, though. This can be discouraging, but way back in college in the middle of a particularly glum spell, I realized one important truth: Jesus understands what it means to be alone. He was completely misunderstood and abandoned. He had no one left to comfort Him, not even His father. Now He is with me, so not only am I never alone, but the One who keeps me company can fully sympathize with my struggle.

In the past couple of years I have come to terms with another truth, the contained in that passage from Hebrews: that loneliness is a natural part of human life, particularly the life lived by faith. Not even the most popular person on earth gets to feel connected all the time. This fallen world just doesn't let that happen. And as for me-- decidedly not the most popular person on earth-- I'm waiting for something better anyway.

So perhaps I need to accept that feeling out of joint with the world is okay. I don't fit in here, after all. I really am a stranger and an exile. Only in the heavenly country will I know what it means to belong.


  1. "You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you."
    St. Augustine's Confessions


  2. Thank you, Rebekah. I resonate with everything you said here.