I grew up in a family of five children on Long Island, New York. You’d think I’d feel part of a tribe, happy surrounded by brothers and sisters. But as the oldest daughter, with two younger sisters and two brothers who shared rooms, I often felt lonely in our Brady Bunch kind of family.
It made the most sense that I’d have my own room, yet at least one of my sisters, jealous as can be, thought I was the princess in the family. Yet, what she didn’t know was how isolated I felt, shoved off to my bedroom island far away from my family. It didn’t help that for a while my childhood bedroom was an attic in-progress of renovation.
My favorite childhood memory is of our regular Sunday night gatherings watching The Wonderful World of Disney, each of us snuggled in our flannel pajamas, the fireplace flaming with warmth. I loved these evenings, mostly that we were together. Yet, after the show ended, we’d go brush our teeth and head off to bed, my two brothers to their bedroom, my parents to their room, and my sisters to their bedroom upstairs. Noah’s Arc and the song Rise and Shine comes to mind:
The animals, they came on, they came on by twosies, twosies.
The animals, they came on, they came on by twosies, twosies.
Elephants and (clap once) kangaroosies, roosies.
Children of the Lord.
God’s plan for us was surely meant for togetherness.
I’d follow my sisters upstairs, but then I’d head alone into to my half finished attic bedroom where I’d lay awake in bed for what seemed like hours, staring above at the pink letters of the manufacturers’ logo on the insulation, it’s pink fuzz hanging from corners within the ceiling’s wood frame, my aloneness shouting loud. It was the kind of loneliness of a lost child in a thick forest, towering trees spread for miles ahead, behind, to the left, and right. Only my prayers comforted me to sleep each night, giving me the sweet taste of God transforming my childhood loneliness into solitude, and offering a comforting night sleep.
Many girls dream of having their own room, and by the time I became a teenager we had moved to a new house, I loved having my own room, specially when grandma made me an exquisite lavender checkered bedspread, with a mint green dust ruffle, and matching drapes and a curtain for my vanity — on top, my plastic statue of the Virgin Mary.
Yet, when tragedy stole my mother away, mental illness and alcoholism ravaging our lives, loneliness painted dark shadows in my lavender-mint green room. For solace, I played Neil Young on the record player, his words etched in black vinyl, circling round and round – “I saw the needle and the damage done..” which twisted around my abandonment, helping make sense of my intangible, spiraling despair, of the damage raging through our Wonderful World of Disney home. In the morning when I woke to get ready for school, I’d put Carole King on the record player, her words helping me out of bed to get to school as I pulled up my bell bottoms, pasting a smile on my face… “I got to get up every morning with a smile on my face and show the world all the love in my heart”.
I didn’t know then what I know now, that I could cry out to God for help and God would hear, “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress!”
I didn’t know then, what I know now, that God is always near the brokenhearted and will help those crushed in spirit.
I didn’t know that though a father and mother can forsake us, that God will receive us.
I didn’t know we are assured that we are never alone. That God will bring others to comfort us.
I didn’t know then that Jesus would send The Holy Spirit, the great Counselor.
He will give you another helper who will be with you forever. -John 14:16
My mother is long gone, as well as my grief. I’ve been blessed with a new mother, my mother-in-law, who is also a friend and great joy in my life. I’ve been blessed with a new family of my own, my soul mate, and my dear son. I’ve been blessed with dear friends, and restored relationships with my sisters and brothers — who also wear their battle scars well. They’ve had their share of loneliness and now have beautiful families of their own.
I’ve learned that God meets us in our hardships and uses us because of them. In this way I’ve been greatly blessed.
Loneliness comes and goes to this day, yet long ago I learned that God can turn loneliness into solitude.
And I learned that God is a loving God, a God who heals, restores and gives us far more than we ever imagined.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.-Psalm 139:7-10
Do you feel alone in any areas of your life? Are you wanting new friendships? Are you lonely due to facing a loss of a loved one? At times do you feel alone in your marriage or relationship? Do you work alone and want co-workers or collaboration (I do!)?
Let us put our sights on God’s promises, knowing God will never leave or forsake us, knowing we can turn to God to heal our loneliness, restore relationships, to bring us new friendships, and to fill us with peace that surpasses all understanding.
Here are more scripture reflections on God’s plan for togetherness:
The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone..I will make a helper suitable for him.– Genesis 2:18
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
If two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? . – Ecclesiastes 9:11–12
God sets the lonely in families.- Psalm 68
The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. – 1 Timothy 5:5
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God is: to visit orphans and widows in their distress. – James 1:27
God helps us every time we have trouble. Then we are able to be strong and help other people every time they have trouble. We can do this with the same comfort that God gives us. – 2 Corinthian 1:3