Lent 12: Words from Nouwen...

The following is an entry in Henri Nouwen's Inner Voice of Love...

Find the Source of Your Loneliness

Whenever you feel lonely, you must try to find the source of this feeling. You are inclined either to run away from your loneliness or to dwell in it. When you run away from it, your loneliness does not really diminish; you simply force it out of your mind temporarily. When you start dwelling in it, your feelings only become stronger, and you slip into depression.

The spiritual task is not to escape your loneliness, not to let yourself drown in it, but to find its source. This is not so easy to do, but when you can somehow identify the place from which these feelings emerge, they will lose some of their power over you. This identification is not an intellectual task; it is a task of the heart. With your heart you must search for that place without fear.

This is an important search because it leads you to discern something good about yourself. The pain of your loneliness may be rooted in your deepest vocation. You might find that your loneliness is linked to your call to live completely for God. Thus your loneliness may be revealed to you as the other side of your unique gift. Once you can experience in your innermost being the truth of this, you may find your loneliness not only tolerable but even fruitful. What seemed primarily painful may then become a feeling that, though painful, opens for you the way to an even deeper knowledge of God's love...

My friend Abe talks about the deep loneliness from time to time. It's a way of addressing the fact that we come into this world alone, we leave it alone, and countless times between these two events we often face intense feelings of loneliness and times of solitude. At least that's what I understand "the deep loneliness" to mean.

As someone who sees a therapist on a regular basis, I hear often how it's important to try to find the root, the source, of certain emotions and thoughts. It's not an easy thing to do. It's horrifying to start looking for the source of loneliness, depression, worthlessness. Even more horrifying is when you find that source and have to go back to it over and over again, battling with it, tearing it down piece by piece. It's grueling to have to face yourself at such an intimate level. But it's necessary, more so than can even be put into words.

I think this is one reason I'm not part of a church right now. Going to church is a way of running from my own feelings of loneliness. It's not that I don't meet God when I go, but that I end up spending more time focusing on everyone around me but God. In church, God doesn't get a chance to really work on me, sit with me, or heal me because I'm too busy staying busy.

Loneliness for me has several sources, too many to name here, too personal to divulge at the present moment. But I've had moments—glimpses—where I've found a source of my loneliness and have been able to chip away at it, speaking truth to the power it holds over me. Everytime I go back to this source, I come away feeling a little more whole, a little more like the man God created me to be, a little more equipped to do the work and live into the vocation God has called me to do and to live into.

Maybe I'll go back there today...