“You can’t be The Lone Ranger. Christianity can only be done in community.”
Then why is faith such a lonely place sometimes? How do I explain the seasons when the more I engage, the more people I seek out, the more people I pray with, the more isolated I feel?
I used to think that getting married would obliterate my loneliness. I don’t think that anymore. Getting to know people and being around them hasn’t gotten rid of it, so maybe that’s too much of an expectation to heap upon my future spouse.
[Having said that, I’m still more than willing to give marriage the old college try, Jesus. I’m just sayin’.]
Did I choose my dark places, or have they chosen me?
Probably a bit of both.
If you look only at the facts of my early life, I probably shouldn’t (ick…speaking of unreasonable expectations. Can we just ban this word from the English language already?) be so worried about being abandoned. I had an enviable childhood. My parents are good role models. They’re responsible, faithful people who are still together, just like they’ve been since they were practically teenagers. They have always had high expectations, but they’re fair expectations. And they love their children – oh, how they love us.
Yet I distinctly remember in the church I grew up in, when we watched that terrible 70s film about the last days, as the song’s line repeated, “You’ve been left behind,” my fear of being left didn’t have anything to do with the apocalypse. It was very much a then-and-there fear.
It’s a fear that’s stuck around.
I didn’t sleep a lot that week. I don’t sleep a lot many weeks of the year.
Adult life has had more examples of people going away, and oddly, that’s a comfort. A see-how-I’m-not-totally-crazy consolation. I’ve been through church splits and dissolutions, and that’s been hurtful, especially when it means we don’t see each other anymore, indicating that our bond was not as strong as it appeared. Friends come and go, show up and then get married or have children or move or all of the above, and my heart’s not built to be a pit stop. Maybe most people’s hearts are. Maybe that’s my problem. I can’t make my heart do what it’s supposed to do. I can’t make my heart let go; a part of it always goes with them.
I don’t bond easily, but when I do, it’s forever. Even when the other person goes away. And I’m afraid that they all will go away eventually.
In my darkest times, I get angry about it. In my darkest times, I imagine pouring my heart out and being told, “Excellent sharing. Really top notch. Thanks for telling us. Okay, goodbye now. Have a nice life. Good luck!” And that makes me so mad. I argue with these imaginary people in my head who say things like that, who would be cavalier enough about my heart to walk away from it.
This is not a plea to tell me how you’ll stay. Please don’t promise that. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. I want you to do what you need to do, and I don’t want you to feel bad about it. Guilt is not welcome here. For any of us.
And I’m thankful that I’ve seen fewer of these darkest days recently. I think spending more time with my sister has helped. And I think my church – specifically, joining the choir – has helped.
They feed me. They listen to me. They surround me with song.
These are the things I cling to when it’s dark. It doesn’t always drive the darkness away, but it’s a bit of light to see by.
I have learned not to be so scared of the dark places. I have learned precious things that my stubbornness would not have allowed me to learn any other way. I have grown more confident in my navigation skills. It has made me more self-sufficient but also more willing to be interdependent. It has made me stronger…and also weaker. It teaches me how to hold opposing forces in the same hand.
Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, releases on Tuesday, March 15, and she’s invited her readers to link up to her synchroblog. Come back after the release date to read more stories of faith in the dark.