Lonely tree in the southern field behind Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Don’t let solitude become a security blanket

I’m an independent person. I always have been, from the time I was a little girl. I don’t need much to make it through in life. I’m not really the sort of person who requires socialization or a circle of friends. It’s easy for me to be on my own, and by that token, it’s easy for me to isolate myself. I live like a hermit anyway, alone in the middle of nowhere. And now I don’t even have a cat to talk to, as they’ve all either died of old age or got carried off by owls or coyotes.

And while I like the quietude of this lifestyle choice, sometimes the silence lies and tries to convince me that I’m isolated because I’m alone. And there’s a big difference between being isolated and being alone, between being independent and being lonely. I don’t necessarily think that isolation is bad. It just depends on your motives. But if you’re going to live a life that’s solitary–and even if you don’t–you need to be aware that lies get louder in silence. And you need to remember that even if you enjoy being on your own, you still need people.

Lonely tree in the southern field behind Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Lonely tree in the southern field behind Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

I’ve been running wild the last couple of months. Actually, running wild is sort of a constant with me. I’m always dashing from one thing to another, rarely standing still. But that’s me, and I’ve got a lot of plates spinning. So for the last few months, I actually haven’t been able to go to church. I’m fortunate to attend a church that streams their services live, so I’ve watched when I had the opportunity. But streaming online isn’t the same as being there in person.

I got to go this weekend. And being in the service, surrounded by friends and family in the blood of Christ reminded me just how much I need people. When I’m on my own, busy and bustling back and forth from crisis to crisis, it’s easy for me to think that I’m okay without sharing life with people. I’m functioning just fine, after all. But there’s more to life than just functioning. There’s more to life than just surviving. God didn’t put me here to just make it through another day. He wants me to thrive. He wants me to grow. He wants me to live.

And while I prefer the silence sometimes, silence isn’t always conducive to growth. And you can’t experience real friendship if you don’t invest in other people. It’s a risk, yes, because people are people. But it’s worth it.

Pastor posed a question in his message yesterday, asking us to think about the people who’ve loved us the most in our lives and what our lives would look like without them. That’s difficult to even think about. And my first thought was that I didn’t have a whole lot of people who loved me like that, and that’s when I realized I’d been shutting myself away too long. Because that’s a lie.

I started making a list of people who’ve loved me, who’ve made a difference in my life, and needless to say it’s very very long. It was much longer than I expected it to be. I have been very fortunate in my life to have many, many people come alongside me to support me and love me more than I deserved. But when you get so busy with your nose to the grindstone, it’s easy to forget the people who’ve invested in you.

So for the rest of this month, I really want to focus on friendships and relationships in life and how important they are. Granted, I’m not going to change the way I live, unless God tells me I need to. But I don’t have to shut myself away from people. Living a quiet life is good. Having quiet moments is essential. But when the quiet changes from a refuge to a security blanket, you’ve got a problem.

Don’t cut people out of your life. If you were sufficient on your own, God wouldn’t have made other people. And, yes, God is sufficient for you as your friend, your maker, your God, your Lord. But if it was just supposed to be you and God going through life without any other interaction with people, why are there people around you? God designed us to invest in each other. So don’t run away from it. Embrace it. Yes, that means you’re taking a risk. Yes, that means you’ll have to give up some time alone. But what are you really here for?

School house window - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What friends are for

Do you ever feel the need to be alone? I’m not talking just getting away from people. Even the most extroverted person needs some quiet time every now and then. I mean alone, like you cut ties with everyone you knew. Alone, as in by yourself with no one around you.

Why is that? Why do some people feel the need to shut others out and try to shoulder their burdens by themselves? Well, I can’t speak for others, but I can speak for myself. I’m afraid that people will think I’m weak.

School house window - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

School house window – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 19:3-4.

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

1 Kings 19 is an interesting chapter. It follows one of the most amazing Old Testament stories in the Bible, when Elijah challenged Queen Jezebel’s prophets of Baal to a contest to see who was real, Baal or God. Elijah called fire down, and the prophets of Baal just made idiots out of themselves. And all of Israel that had gathered there declared that God was the true God and that they would worship Him.

It was a high moment in Elijah’s life. But, of course, that made Queen Jezebel pretty angry, and she threatened to kill Elijah.

Whenever this story comes around, most folks will focus on the fact that Elijah crashes. After experiencing a mountaintop day with God, the next day, he crumbles into a useless heap in a cave and has a pity party.

Or people will talk about God asking Elijah what he’s doing there. Or people will focus on how God spoke to Elijah, not in the wind and not in the fire but in the still, small voice. But as I was reading this morning, something stood out to me that I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed before.

Verse 3, at the very beginning of the story, tells us that Elijah fled for his life and left his servant behind before he went on alone.

Maybe that’s not significant. But it popped out on the page at me today because I am constantly doing the same thing.

I live on a mountaintop pretty much. My life is amazing. I get to see God doing awesome things just about every day. But it’s not uncommon for me to take a tumble and have a bad day either. I’m human. And I’m emotional enough, no matter how much I don’t want to admit it, that I can end up pouting under a broom tree asking God to kill me.

And on those days, I don’t want anyone to see me like that. So I leave people behind and go off and figure out how to handle my emotional breakdowns all by myself.

Is that the right thing to do? I don’t really think so. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with taking quiet time to get your heart and your mind right. There’s nothing wrong with taking alone time so you and God can get right again. But that’s not what I’m talking about. And that’s not what Elijah did either.

Elijah didn’t want his servant to witness him being less than perfect. This is the same servant who got to see his master be bold and daring just days earlier. This is the same servant who not only got to see Elijah call fire down from heaven but also rain, after it hadn’t rained in three years.

Elijah knew he wasn’t living up to the expectations God had for him. Why else would he tell his servant to stay behind while he went on alone? Elijah wasn’t wandering off to get his head straight. He was going off to beat himself up, to tear himself down, to rip himself apart. And he was too proud to share his feelings with anyone else because he was afraid of what they would think of him.

Maybe I’m putting words in Elijah’s mouth. But that’s what I do.

I’m still working through this. I’ve always been a loner, the kind of person who has to fight through challenges and struggles on my own. But God is beginning to show me that being alone isn’t always the best thing. He’s given us friends for a reason, to keep us accountable, to make us laugh when we don’t even feel like smiling, to love us on the days when we really can’t stand ourselves.

The simple truth is that none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes, and refusing to be honest about that with other people will only hurt our relationships, even if you’re just trying to protect them from your screwups.

God didn’t allow Elijah to be alone. He sent an angel to take care of him. And after God was through talking to him, he sent Elijah on several tasks, ending with appointing a successor, Elisha. They traveled together, and Elisha never let Elijah out of his sight.

God’s given us friends for a reason. And I’m not talking about the fair-weather friends, the ones who are only with you on the good days. I’d be willing to be that everyone has a friend who would do anything for them, whether they know it or not. Those friends love you for who you are. And on those days when you feel like crawling into a cave and asking God to kill you, instead go to those friends and tell them what’s wrong. Let them listen, and don’t worry about what they think of you.

Most likely, they’ll just listen. And they’ll love you anyway. That’s what friends are for.

I would sing “All by Myself” . . . but that’s someone else’s catchphrase

We live in a world where everyone is constantly talking. Everyone is constantly doing something or going somewhere. We’re all busy and we’re all loud, and people rarely take the time to slow down. I know I usually only slow down when I get sick (sometimes not even then). I either consider it extreme dedication or just simple insanity. I always have people around me, and the only time I don’t is when I go home. If my folks aren’t visiting, my house is empty when I return. Nobody at the door to say hello. No dinner made. No coffee brewing. But most of the time, it doesn’t bother me.

That’s usually the first thing people ask me when they find out that I live alone in the middle of nowhere. Don’t you get lonely? Don’t you get scared in that big house all by yourself?

Honestly, the answer changes on a daily basis, but more often than not, no. I don’t suffer from lonliness on a general basis. (Mostly becuase I get my fill of people during the day and long for a few hours of solitude!) I do have days, though, when I wish there were people out here.

The verse of the day got me thinking about being alone today and how it’s usually frowned upon in our society. In our world, being alone usually means that there’s something wrong with you. That you have some issue that prevents you from getting married or getting a boyfriend or living in a community. But there’s nothing wrong with being alone. Actually, being alone is good for you. I actually think I can hear God better when I’m alone. Because — let’s face it — God is always with us so in the strictest sense we aren’t ever truly alone.

God is always talking, always leading, always saying something. He never stops. It’s just us who fail to listen.

The verse of today comes from Romans 8:38-39

 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Not only are we never alone, this verse says that nothing can separate us from God or from His love. So we’re never truly alone and we never will be, no matter what happens.

Do I miss having people around? Well, of course, I do sometimes. I’m human. I like having friends and spendinng time with them. But I enjoy my time alone too.

Our culture tells us that we have to have people around us. That we have to be constantly flitting around from social gathering to social gathering with a gaggle of friends in one hand and a lineup of possible spouses in another. And that’s wrong. All of that is just noise.

Spending time with people can be good for you, but you should balance it by spending time alone, especially by spending time alone with God. He’s the friend who never leaves you, never lets you down and always has the best advice you should follow. He doesn’t talk over you and He will always listen when you need to talk. And He loves you. And He’ll always be there. He’s the best friend you’ll ever have.