Befriending Your Loneliness
by Kelly Flanagan
I have a wonderful wife and three children who, when they are not trying to provoke one another to madness, are the delight of my days. I have friends who would rescue me if I needed rescuing. I have a church where I feel at home. I have therapy clients with whom I share the most personal details of life. I have a speaking career that brings me into the presence of countless lovely souls. I have tens of thousands of fans on Facebook, thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram, and almost twenty thousand people on my mailing list. I have a device in my pocket that can connect me to all of these people instantaneously. I have a dog who greets me every time I walk in the door as if I am the second coming of Jesus. And yet, at times, I still feel lonely.
I used to think this meant there was something wrong with me, because I used to think loneliness and brokenness were essentially the same thing—different sides of the same crummy coin. Now I know, our brokenness is about how we were wounded, whereas our loneliness is about how we were created. I used to think I was the only one who was lonely. After all, when you look around, other people don’t look lonely. They just look like they’re drinking a latte. So it’s easy to assume loneliness is some rare disease you picked up somewhere along the way. Now I know, loneliness isn’t a rare thing.
It’s a human thing.
It is also an essential thing.
Like a caterpillar voluntarily retreating into the lonely shell of its chrysalis in order to become what it was meant to be, we too must retreat into our loneliness in order to become who we were meant to be. This isn’t about enduring our loneliness, or even tolerating it. It’s about choosing it—befriending it, as one of the most valuable spaces in the human experience. It is in the quiet that our souls grow into the fullness of their beauty, wisdom, and capacity for love. In the quiet, we are transformed from crawlers into flyers.