Choose Love Over Lonely.

Love DinnerThroughout my first year living in East Texas, I prayed every time I went to the grocery store.

“Lord, please let me run into somebody I know, and let us discuss the price of lemons, or dish washing liquid or the crushing loneliness that moving twice in four years brings, and if they could invite us over for dinner that would be nice too. Thanks. Amen.”

It never happened. Not one time.

That spring I was in California, sitting by my friend Karen’s pool, drinking wine with three of the world’s smartest women, when I said, “Yah, I’m basically a hermit now and I don’t even care.” Speechless and mortified, they threatened an intervention if I didn’t come back to California and myself.

But thirsty country has a purpose and I know now what it was for me. I also know heartsick and lonely like my own face, but running to California isn’t the answer (ok sometimes it is). Admitting this feels vulnerable and losery, but maybe if we said such things to one another and quit faking it, we’d get out of the desert faster.

So it was no small thing this morning, when I found my kitchen happily strewn with wine bottles, spent candles, flowers and stray forks after not one, but two Love Dinners. One was scheduled, the other was a charming surprise.

Photo Credit: wili_hybrid

Photo Credit: wili_hybrid

Staring at the chaos with sheer gratitude, I thought “this is what building life with Jesus and his people looks like.” It looks like messy tables and open invitations for people to poke around your broom closets and say, “uh hey, what’s this?”

We don’t do this enough because we care too much what people think. We hide, exhausting ourselves with frivolity and small talk, when what we want is to be known and loved in spite of it.

This may be the best part of following Jesus. He knows me and loves me anyway. So I can relax around people and say “yep that’s a jacked up mess and I don’t know what to do about it.” On Friday night, it was fragile and a little heavy, so my friends turned it carefully in their hands and said, “Nope, we don’t either, let’s take it to Jesus.”

And something precious grew between us that someday Jesus will use for his own purposes.

Sure it’s easier to stay home and watch tv; it’s chancy to invite someone into your broom closet. It’s even chancier to invite nine somebodies, but it’s worth it because sometimes one will show up, hand everybody a tiny gift and say, “I know I can do hard things because I have all of you.”

I’m a million miles from the grocery store parking lot, and you can be too. If you’re struggling with loneliness here are a few tips:

1. You are enough for God, in all your beautiful damage. He can and will steady your heart, if you ask.

2. Then he’ll move all your furniture around and invite new people over to sit in it, and that can be scary and hard.

3. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, just keep walking toward it.

So make the call. Light the candles. Look each other in the face and get down to the way things are.

This isn’t frivolity. It’s legacy.

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Two Lessons from a Mud Hut

The girls' hut.

These women are dangerous.

See this little hut with the grass roof and mud walls? I can hardly believe it myself, but for seven days, eight women called it home.

It amazes me now, solitary as I am, that I didn’t throttle anybody or succumb to panic in the suffocatingly close quarters. In fact, I thrived there. The midnight prayers that rose from that hut were so precious, I keep admiring them like a handful of emeralds.

Pray, then balance sandwiches on your head.

Pray, then balance sandwiches on your head.

Here are two things I learned in that hut.

1. We are stronger in tribes – even independent Americans.

While I prefer to sequester myself from other humans and their intolerable messes, it makes me weak. In Africa, I allowed older, wiser women into some deeply shaded parts of my life, allowing their years of wisdom and experience wash over me, and I finally understood what it is to rest for a moment in someone else’s faith.

See, when we go deep with people, into their triumphs and messes, when we witness their failures and are not scared or offended, we grow in community. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told us to stay in church, so we can deal with the inevitable conflict of being human and learn what grace really means.

The reward for the effort is deep affection for one another, and the experience of God’s grace. I love these women now in ways I can’t fully describe.

2. Prayer with a group of woman all kneeling at the feet of Jesus, works.

One night in that hut, we gathered under sleeping bags and headlamps and prayed for things some of us have never spoken out loud. I saw icebergs calve, skyscrapers of hidden guilt and fear, shearing off those women and crashing into the water below, melting in the light of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus told us to do this because He knew it would make us lighter, more nimble, and dangerous to the enemy, but I had to go to Africa to take it seriously.

After all, what scares you doesn’t scare me, so in the name of Jesus, I can walk into your dark corners and kick some ass for you. Then you can do it for me.

And something changes between us forever.

Hubbard Glacier - "Calving"

Hubbard Glacier (Photo credit: roger4336)

I wonder if our independent streak is sometimes a cover for laziness and fear. Of course it’s easier to mind our business and small talk each other to death, but who will slay your dragons when you’re too far down to do it yourself? Who will call that thing you believe about yourself the bald-faced lie it is? Who will say, “You’re drowning in Scotch but I love you and I’m here?”

So if I must choose between a lovely stone manse, with silent wings and empty grounds, and a tiny, mud hut with your socks on my bed and your burdens in my heart, I’m taking the hut. Because I need you, and you need me. So let’s do this thing together.

Do you have a small group you rely on? How did you meet them?