I closed my eyes behind the soft fabric of the black eye mask, willing myself to lay still. Even though the pillow felt soft and the light duvet was just the right amount of weight on this mid-August afternoon (which is basically Fall in Atlantic Canada!), I laid restless, with random thoughts tugging at my mind from all sorts of directions.
Be still, Natasha. Lay still. Just 20 minutes.
Even though I am naturally a “Mary” not a “Martha” – meaning (according to my own personal dictionary) that I am much more likely to sit with a tea and a book and ponder the deep mysteries of life than work from dawn until dusk, living to accomplish one important task after another – still, I have never been good at sleeping.
But when I hit that afternoon lull… after cleaning or writing or catching up on laundry while we’re in between trips, and the girls are content or otherwise occupied, I sometimes set my timer for 20 minutes just to breathe easy, lie still, and re-focus… But sometimes, instead of embracing such an opportunity, that all-too-familiar angst starts gnawing at the pit of my stomach, and instead of relishing the quiet, sometimes, I lay there restless, craving… a distraction.
Be still, Natasha. Lay still. Enjoy the silence.
I press into the quiet, but a darkness starts to envelop my mind, as though I was mentally walking into a deep dark cavern. The old foreboding chill starts to prickle throughout my body. I sense him there… the lurking figure in the shadows, that dark silhouette who haunts my quiet moments, reminding me of the terror of my aloneness.
Be still. Lay still.
I could get up and watch a show. Just one… I have already spent some time in the Word – just a little but still. I have already listened to half of an audio book doing laundry and puttering around the house. I have cleaned, gardened, scheduled, etc. Soooo, I can easily justify snuggling up on the couch for some Netflix… right?
The Persistent Ache.
The ache of loneliness seems to persist no matter the season, either as a lingering whisper or a piercing megaphone. Whether it is an evil lurking in the shadows of your world or a monster that threatens your present survival, loneliness is our foe. It is something we don’t like and desperately want to avoid. So, we (or at least I) tend to turn on the TV, or search social media, or call a friend… Some of us will do anything to escape the aching feeling clawing at the pit of our stomach.
But avoiding loneliness doesn’t make it go away… He stubbornly hangs around in the shadows of our empty spaces like an unwanted guest, draining our energy and stealing our joy.
Loneliness and me.
When loneliness came to live with me during my season of widowhood, I couldn’t face him, the veiled figure in black silhouette. He was too ugly and terrifying. He mocked me with the menacing thought of being alone – being without Lynn, and therefore only myself, and therefore terribly insufficient.
It wasn’t just about being alone. It was about being… only with myself.
One of the worst things about being alone is being stuck with yourself! …and everything that comes with it!
In our culture or society, being with ourselves is a skill that many of us do not have, and that our children may not learn. It is so easy to escape those feelings with any manner of distraction. But if we are to know ourselves, and ever come to know God, and heal and grow in the face of Truth and Light and Life everlasting, moving into a journey of transformation far beyond our hopes and dreams, we must discover the mystery of being with ourselves, unveiled, in the presence of an all-knowing God, “the God who see [you]” (Genesis 6:13).
We need to turn loneliness the foe, into solitude the friend.
The cure for loneliness is good old fashioned solitude.
As I lay there pressing my eye lids shut, feeling the dark cavern closing in around me, I swallow the urge to run. Instead of escaping these damp, suffocating quarters, I lean in. I walk straight into my void where loneliness lives, that evil creature that lurks and mocks, hiding in shadows and sneaking up behind me. Taking courage, I press on until I come upon another figure…
I pause in the stillness and wait for my eyes to adjust. And to my surprise, there in the depth of the cave is another figure. He is somewhat veiled and mysterious, but unlike loneliness, he is kind and warm. He’s bending over a small fire, cooking or brewing coffee or something, and glances up at me with such warm invitation, welcoming me into his presence. Captivated, I move closer to the fire and sit.
Here in the deep dark pit of loneliness’s cavern is not the foe I had feared, but a friend. And not just a friend, but a teacher. I become suddenly warm and comfortable in his presence and begin pouring out my heart, things I didn’t even know were there.
He silences me, gently but firmly.
Be still, Natasha. Lay still. And let me show you Myself. In seeing me as I really am, you will come to know and accept yourself. Come into my presence and be strengthened at the core of your being, having your soul restored in the washing of my Word.
Strength and Fortitude.
I rise from my 20 minutes a little bit stronger. A little bit wiser. A little more confident about who God is and who I am because of it. I can tell almost instantly on the days when I have chosen Netflix over these few moments with Solitude. I get up drained and tired, my soul a little more lost and confused about who God is and who I am because of it…
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, ESV)