Saturday, November 28, 2009

Solitude, Loneliness, and the Void Only God Can Fill

It’s normal and perfectly human to want someone who you can be open and honest with, who for the most part understands who you are, and loves you just the way you are while still encouraging you to grow.
I think God puts in us a desire to be known and accepted and to want to know others so that we reach out to people and thereby learn how to love and be loved, which helps us experience in a tangible way God’s love for us. We need times of solitude and quiet prayer to come to a deeper awareness of who we are and who God is. It can be during those times that we are also most aware of a void in us.

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it. –Thomas Merton

In my experience, there isn’t another person out there whose company will fill the entire void each of us has; only God can do that. Through family, friends, and the relationships formed within the guidelines for a particular vocation, whether it be to the life of someone who is single, dating, married, a consecrated, celibate religious…God gives us a good portion of what we need to have when it comes to human companionship. Beyond that, I believe He leaves a space in us that craves an intimacy deeper than can occur with another person on earth. He allows a place in us to remain that only He can fill.

“Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.” –St. Augustine

My husband Kevin and I love each other very deeply and we know each other better than anyone else knows us, yet I’m certain I don’t fulfill all of his needs for friendship and companionship nor does he fill all of mine. I believe God intends for us to be as close as two people can become and share a level of intimacy with one another that’s deeper than what is reached in any other of our relationships, but I don’t think He’s ever intended for one person to be everything another person wants or needs intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
No person, addiction, experience, or thing can take away loneliness or satisfy all of our wants and needs…only God can fill the emptiness inside completely, and while on earth we’re usually left feeling a lack inside, however large or small, because we aren’t completely one with God this side of heaven.
Sometimes when we feel really lonely we seek out others and don’t choose as wisely as we might at other times when we aren’t as desperate for companionship.
From time to time we need to sort through things and surround ourselves with good, honest, holy, people who will help us work through our baggage and encourage us to grow and move forward. We need to be very careful to seek God’s will.
Even the perfect married couple (Mary and Joseph), truly soul-mates, God led to go visit Elizabeth and Zechariah while Mary and Elizabeth were both pregnant. We often seek out kindred spirits, people who have gone through what we’re going through and can answer questions or at least let us know we’re not the only one who’s had the same challenges. Before Jesus started His public ministry, it was often seeing how others responded to Him that led Mary and Joseph to an even deeper awareness of who He was and is.
As the title of Thomas Merton’s book suggests no man is an island. No friendship, religious vocation, or marriage is meant to be an island, either. Some are called to the contemplative life and a few are even called to live in utter solitude, yet they must still rely on others for some aspect of their lives, whether it be food, shelter, medical attention, Reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist …something.
Each person is so complex, it takes a number of people, made up of family and friends to understand, accept, affirm, and bring out different aspects of who we are and who God wants us to become. We benefit from having close friendships with people who love and care for us, and somehow give us a glimpse of God’s love as it reaches us and moves in and through us.
Lord, thank You for the cloud of witnesses You have put in my life to help me grow closer to You. Please help me become a better witness to others of Your unconditional love. Remove any selfishness, pride, or ignorance that’s in the way of the Holy Spirit working freely in and through me. Amen.
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