I am lonely.
That is what I am hearing, over and over again. Loners, leaders and ‘popular’ ladies all say it. So many women have shared stories with me over the last few weeks; some break my heart and others inspire me. Many have said that during their loneliness, ‘God was their all in all’. I so get that. He has filled the gap for me many times.
God said in Genesis that it was not good for man to be alone; it goes for us women too. We were designed for relationships. First of all, an intimate relationship with God, but then beyond that, to have deep meaningful friendships as well. A word search of ‘lonely’ in the King James, New King James, ESV and NIV brought up less than a half a dozen results. But before I even looked, when I was reflecting this morning I recalled the loneliest year of my life and how Psalm 102:7 resonated with me: ‘I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop”.
I remembered reading that verse and literally falling on my face before the Lord. It summed up my pain in such a vivid picture. I wrote it down in my journal and spoke it out loud to Him countless times during the year of my divorce when many of my friends deserted me. Loneliness enveloped me and, in fact, in time I learned to embrace it; so much safer to be alone than to be hurt again. Upon emerging from that painful year, I had changed the way I related to women and how close I would allow them to get. Social media became my safe place.
There is a video, The Innovation of Loneliness that really got me to thinking about how we, as women, have changed the way we interact with each other. Back when my mother was a stay at home mom, she and her whole generation would typically do their chores in the morning and then socialize in the afternoon. Tea, bridge, Bible studies . . . however it looked, they did face to face relationship building.
By the time I had my children, I too learned the trick of tidying up in the morning to be free to meet with friends in the afternoon. After lunch I would wander the malls with my sister-in-law or have friends pop over for tea while our kids played at our feet. Whether pushing our strollers or our own opinions, we could read each other’s faces and extend a hand in comfort when tears fell. When I returned to work, we changed it up to meet in the evenings or weekends over coffee. It was honest. And raw. In real-time.
Now most of us only give (((hugs))) and L as a way to respond to our friends’ painful moments. I am the guiltiest. As a wounded introvert, Facebook, texts and Twitter have enabled me to hide away in my own safe, private cocoon all the while convincing myself that I’m not a hermit. After all, I have over two hundred ‘friends’. (And, yes, I know, two hundred is a small number for Facebook; I’m an elitist and don’t accept just anybody. Feel privileged.)
Last night there was a women’s fellowship time at our church. I told my husband that I didn’t want to go and fake being happy. He suggested that I instead walk in with a sign around my neck that read, ‘Disappointed and Disillusioned’— a friend had recently broken my heart and it was still in recovery. I didn’t have any desire to be around other women at all but I went . . . sans sign.
God, in His infinite love, brought another woman to my side who confessed that she too would have liked to have hung a sign around her neck and we bonded as we shared our brokenness in face to face honesty. It was rare and sweet.
Which, in turn, brought me to write this post; to this reflection. Why are those moments so few and far between?
Even when we go to church, according to the dozens of you who said so yourselves, why do we put on masks and only reveal what we think those around us are willing to accept? Why do we crave acceptance of a false representation of ourselves more than authentic relationships? Is it because we’ve become a generation of people who place so much emphasis on numbers of friends that we have sacrificed quality for quantity—just like the Innovation of Loneliness video surmises? Or, is it because we are all so wounded we would rather hide behind false relationships than risk being hurt or rejected again?
I don’t know. But I am willing to do an experiment. I am going to (once again) only allow myself to venture into the Facebook Friend realm on Saturday mornings for the month of October to see if this disconnect will draw me more to the phone (which FYI as an introvert I typically hate) and to coffee shops for connection (caffeine and conversation . . . much better). I would think that breaking free from the addiction of social media may have many other positive effects such as opening up more time with the Lord as well.
As a writer who is working on building a platform to promote my upcoming book, this would be deemed career suicide, but I think the Lord has his hand on things. Obedience rules. Fear of God trumps fear of editors and publishers. And I for one am finally ready to find true friends who want more than just (((hugs))), J and ♡. I challenge you to engage yourselves more face to face this month as well. To build real time friendships . . . it’s time to re-discover developing authentic relationships.
Lori Dixon is working on a book that addresses the conflicts that sometimes occur between ‘church ladies’.