The older I get, the more I’m convinced everything you ever need to know about life they teach you in first grade. Things like, your day will be a whole lot better if you take a twenty minute nap, you should probably eat animal crackers and Oreos at least twice a day, and one of the best investments you’ll ever make in life is a 64 pack of Crayola crayons. My favorite things though, as a child, were stories. I was a voracious reader growing up, and one night, out of melancholic nostalgia for those days, I began to re-read some of my most beloved childhood tales. As I went along, I was struck by a profundity from the one-and-only Dr. Seuss:
“All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot. And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”
Whoa. I think I was too focused on protecting my share of the goldfish from my classmates than actually listening to Mrs. Jones during story time to grasp the sagacity of that statement.
I believe Dr. Seuss was onto something in Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I’ve never enjoyed being alone very much, or sitting still in one place very long for that matter. I would spend my holiday’s deep-sea fishing in Alaska, hunting big game in South Africa or hiking the Great Wall to avoid spending several months in suburbia. Yet, God, in His infinite wisdom (or divine sense-of-humor), called me to spend the summer months in sleepy southern Virginia. I don’t know if you have ever been to southern Virginia, but there’s not a lot here, unless you’re a coal-mining aficionado or like watching trains go by. Far from the city lights of Atlanta, away from the stimulation found in exotic places, removed from most of my collegiate community, I’ve been terribly lonely.
Nobody likes to be alone. Even introverts have their limits. Why is it, of all the verses in the Bible, one of the hardest for me to live out is Psalm 46:10, “be still and know that I am God?” I’ve concluded it’s because in solitude and silence we’re forced to face who we really are, it’s in those moments of stillness where we begin to realize the depth of our own depravity. I think the author of How The Grinch Stole Christmas would agree one’s own degeneracy falls into the category of something that “scares you right out of your pants.”
Yet, one of the things I love most about God is his uncanny ability to make order out of chaos; to transform ugliness into beauty. He demonstrated this ability most vividly on the cross where He took something that killed and transposed it into something that saved! In the same way, loneliness doesn’t have to stop at the realization of my own inequity, but can become an opportunity to enter into the throne room of the Almighty. Loneliness is, in a way, a call from God to draw close to Him. It’s a chance to remind us what happened with a handful of nails and two wooden beams over two thousand years ago on a hill called Calvary. Loneliness is an invitation to look into the eyes of Jesus, the “luminous Nazarene”; to proclaim the truth of who He is, who you are and Whose you are, and declare those things until they ring true in the deepest parts of your soul.
The great irony is we can’t do it alone, on our own we will never push through loneliness; to quote The Cat in the Hat, “this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!” Yet Christ, defying all human logic, comes in and plucks us from the muck and the mire and walks beside us into the radiant gates of eternity. Meeting us in the mess, He takes the abhorrent cacophony of our human existence and replaces it with a majestic symphony of unconditional love and grace. He is more than capable of transforming our depression-filled loneliness into an intimate companionship. So, embrace the gift of isolation! Remind yourself of truth. Realize that feelings don’t dictate fact. Finally, never, ever, get to old to “be still” and sit like a child at the feet of the Jesus, rapt and enamored with the lavish story of redemption He’s written.