Throughout 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.
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.