The Way Out of the Soul’s SOS

“Merry Christmas!” She stood at my dorm room door with a gift in her hand. It was an unexpected surprise and delight. My friend wanted me to open it right at that moment. I tore off the wrapping paper and there was a book.

It was a book about loneliness. She looked at me, curiously watching my expression. I’m not sure if I hid my shock and disappointment well. Did she think I was lonely? We had never talked about it. I can’t remember the exact conversation, but I do remember her saying she wanted to read it, too, when I was through.

I was always puzzled—if she thought I was lonely, why weren’t there phone calls, requests to hang out? Here was a book, to solve a problem we had never discussed, except in the form of passing a book from one hand to the other.

***

Those years as a young mom. I can’t remember much and I feel guilty about that. I don’t have cute baby books with photos and dates of major milestones—and I feel guilty. I was lacking in sleep and swimming in the lives of little children, so much so I can’t remember a whole decade of my life. Much of what I remember is that I don’t remember. I had three kids five years and under and there was no escape to the endless needs of helplessness, no respite, and I felt guilty.  There was constant need of me. And it was lonely.

The time I moved to a new city knowing no one.

The many other things, the daily stings, the hurt relationships, the deaths, the losses, the pains.

***

We’re living in an epidemic of something that isn’t caused by a bacteria or virus. But it’s just as painful, and most streets in our towns are affected.

It’s loneliness.

And the irony is that we ache in secret. We know that maybe up to one third of us feel this way, but we don’t talk about it. We act as if all is well, and we bury ourselves in activity, heads down while scrolling on our phones, and feel even lonelier because everyone looks like they are having a good time with their friends.

It’s what we do at work. It’s what we do in our homes. It’s what we do walking down the street or while shopping for groceries. It’s what we do at church.

What we can’t see is that everyone else is aching, too.

This epidemic of loneliness hurts our health as much as smoking cigarettes. It’s leading to depression and substance abuse. It’s cutting our lifespan. It’s choking us.

As we go through each stage of our lives, loneliness walks with us. Part of it is the stage we’re in: moving to a new city, starting college, having children, losing a parent, facing a health crisis or a financial crisis. All of these are life events lend themselves to feelings of loneliness.

But there is something else.

Disconnection.

A disconnection from each other.

And a spiritual disconnect.

In a postmodern era where we no longer need one another, because everything is at our fingertips, we’re living on stranded islands, flailing on the inside, hoping someone will notice our invisible SOS.

Loneliness is a signal, an SOS, because our very souls are in distress.

The fact that we are hiding it or trying to hide it (are we really hiding it well?) is a sign that something is amiss.

The thing about life is that we can’t really live it alone.

Life is meant to be lived with other people living life.

I want to tell someone about the juicy ripeness of a peach, the stunning reds of a sunset, the aches and pains of an ordinary day. I want to be a friend who asks, who remembers to ask, and to be asked. I want to know. I want to hear your story. And I want you to hear mine.

To share. To share the ups and downs of a life, the laughs, the cries, the joys and the guffaws.

To be able to say, “Me too.”

Me too. You too? Same for me. I get it.

I’m here for you.

It’s not enough to pass you by with a quick hello. It’s not enough to go through day after day without speaking or seeing anyone in real life and only scrolling online. To look at photos online, to play games online with faces no one sees. It’s not enough. It’s never been enough—and never will be.

We can’t live this life alone.

Our lives are yoked together and when we are living as if they aren’t, we feel the snap of the break.

“…my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal. When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,” I didn’t believe a word they said.” (Psalm 77:2-4 MSG)

In every stage of life, in addition to the situation we’re in, or the phase we’re walking through, we’re face to face with another level of loneliness on top of it, because we’re so disconnected.

Until we find each other again, our loneliness is an open wound that can’t heal.

This is the heart’s cry of being human. We aren’t meant to do this alone.

How are you? No, how are you really?

I’m here for you.

Me too.

I get it.

Same here.

Let’s figure it out together.

Let’s walk together.

 I want to walk together, even with all the messy parts, no matter what it takes.

Because that’s the only way out of the isolation and to respond to the soul’s cry.

Are you with me?

***

Image Credit: Pexels

Prasanta Verma
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