Sustenance for The Spirit
Being alone is something that happens, which we don’t really mind, unless we think about the fact that we’re alone. Many years ago there was an elderly gentleman who became my mental image of the word, alone. At the time, my empathic heart felt that he was lonely, but now I realize that just because he ate a Sunday lunch by himself at the diner most in our small town frequented for said meal, does not mean that he was lonely. As he ate in silence, his back bent unnaturally, he could have been in physical pain. But, he was cared for in that busy eating establishment. I saw him more than once at the same basic time and always in the same booth. I just remember being touched emotionally, not knowing what I could do but wishing I could fix things so he would not look so alone.
I was reminded of that aloneness recently, by a comment made in a text from a grieving son about his grieving mother. They had lost their father/husband to this crazy virus, and his sweet mother was having to be hospitalized after testing positive. The son remarked that what hurt the most was that his mother was having to grieve alone. For obvious reasons, no one was allowed into her hospital room. While we were able to help in relatively small ways by visiting from outside her window, attaching signs to her window and praying with her via cell phones, it caused me to think of all the “alone” situations that have developed due to COVID. There are always residual effects when something disturbs the world. Ripples are caused that have endless consequences not fully realized. The small ripples are those we often don’t even notice, but without concern waves may develop, and then the result can be devastating. Aloneness is a small ripple, at least at first.
In the Bible, the desert was the perfect place to be alone. John the Baptist evidently hung out there for the better part of his life, preparing himself for forging a straight path for his cousin, Jesus. (Matthew 3:1–3, Isaiah 40:3) Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert fasting, before being tempted by food, pride and power by the devil himself (Matthew 4:1–11) So, not only were they alone, but both John and Jesus were challenged physically and spiritually in the desert. I get the feeling that, even if it’s not stated specifically, they spent a lot of that alone time conversing with God. How else would they have been able to meet the challenges they faced? Their time not among people prepared them for their eventual ministry among people. It seems to me, that although solitude in the desert presented its challenges, and I’m not saying that lightly, their physical aloneness did not necessitate loneliness. In fact, I believe they grasped God’s presence much more strongly because of their aloneness.
We don’t wish aloneness on anyone, but if faced with it, there can be great purpose and depth of understanding gained. The prophet Isaiah offers strength to those with fearful hearts by quoting that God will save, and “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35:4–6, NIV) God is with us in the sparse desert, providing life-giving, spiritual H2O. Thomas Aquinas said, “If you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because he himself is the way.” He’s been there, alone. He can fully appreciate the streams of thirst quenching water while talking to the wind. Sometimes we have to feel really alone to connect with John the Baptist and Jesus, in order to realize that we’re not ever actually alone. God’s love is present. Jesus’ compassion is with us. The Holy Spirit is quenching us. In Proverbs 20:27, the wise words are, “The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being.”
I actually enjoy being alone, but only for as long as I want to be. Sometimes we are challenged to be alone unexpectedly, or for a much longer time than we want. Life continues with or without the presence of real people around us, but there is a presence always there. You know who it is. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a) We only need to realize and acknowledge God’s presence. Being alone is not the depressing desert. It is refreshing, filled with spiritual streams. Cup your hands and engage God’s blessings into your life. Be alone and have a wonderful day!