The answer is no. Loneliness is not real.
“What?” Let me explain.
It does feel like it when I’m walking the streets of a foreign city on my own, stopping to take pictures of things that most people are not taking pictures of and sticking out like a sore thumb. It does look like it when I go to a busy restaurant, or cinema, and ask for a table or seat for one to be be myself. It does sound like it when I’m sitting silently at a park alone looking at the sky, trees, or people going by.
But as a seemingly “lonely soul” and solo traveler, trust me when I tell you: loneliness is not real. No matter how much you or society will tell yourself, its-not-real. No medical or cognitive behavioral study has or will convince me otherwise.
What is real, yet paradoxically subjective to each of us, is the basis for which the symptom of loneliness stems from; which is what goes on between those two ears of yours. It’s about your beliefs and ensuing choices.
My belief? We are never alone.
Recently, Chester Bennington from the famous band Linkin Park unfortunately committed suicide. Before him, his friend Chris Cornell also took his own life. Before them, up to 25,600 people on average have taken their own life in America just this year alone. Then there are those who are currently struggling with depression as well and have either considered, attempted, or not reported.
I used to be part of that statistic. From the age of 9 through 14. Divorced parents, moving to three different states (and cities in between) and having to say goodbye to friends constantly, remarried and re-divorced mom, alcoholic and drug abusing step-dad, homosexual (sexual) actions that were shunned by my very dysfunctional extended family, suffering an extensive digestive illness where I was not able to poop for a week straight constantly (i.e., keeping toxins in my blood stream), pondering the bliss of losing all feeling and slipping into the cold darkness of death where no one could hurt me, consistent nightmares where I or people I cared about would die horrible deaths like having a stranger stab you violently in the heart with a pencil while having a big Joker-like smile on his face and you choke on your own blood, looking to video games as an escape from the real world, etc.
And yet here I am now, only a few years later, with joy, peace, and love in my heart for myself, my family, friends, and the world in general. With confidence to travel the Middle East and Europe on my own for almost 8 months now. I’m free.
What happened? No offense to those who work in or receive the following things: but it was not therapy, self-help books, hobbies, friends, family, drugs, alcohol, or just “growing up.”
It was love. It was kindness extended to a lost and inwardly very angry young soul. It was the nature and presence of the ever living God.
Specifically, it was an experience and tender word from a man shining like the sun and robed in florescent white clothing, like that of an angel, that I received first in August 2008, then January 2009, and then June 2010. Most recently, I was reminded of it again towards the end of July 2017. It is the only experience that has honestly brought me to my knees with tears pouring out. And it is this:
“My son, do not be afraid. You are not alone, for I am always with you.”
“My son.” Oh I wish I could express to you how much those words tore me apart. As a boy who’s father took off to pursue a better life and who’s mom was trying to figure out her life on her own while raising a son, I didn’t feel like a son. I felt like a burden, tossed from one side to the other. It’s why I hate inconveniencing people to this day. And yet, when I heard those words “My son” from a voice that was sincere, pure, and authoritative; even as I write this now my eyes swell up at how much they pierced and melted my angry heart. For the first time in my life, I knew what love really is, how light, real and powerful it is.
Afraid. Alone. The two A’s that very commonly lead to the third A: Anger. And here I was being told I don’t have to be either of them.
I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t have to be alone. I don’t have to be angry. I have a choice. A choice to believe that I can be free of these things that have haunted me for my formative years.
Quick side-note: I don’t think it’s a (funny) coincidence that as I was writing this paragraph the song “Hey Brother” by Avicii came on my iPod.
With those words came a moment of realization of a pure love I had never felt. With that realization came tears, deep from within my heart full of pain hoarded over many years, and an acceptance to lay what I thought to be true down and surrender to something higher and more lofty than my reasonable, practical, analytical mind.
The best thing about it all? I’m not alone. In the sense that I’m not the only one with this type of experience, many people have had similar ones. And they all talk about the same thing: a man, this Jewish peasant named Jesus son of Joseph that walked this earth 2000 years ago. If I am not alone in this experience, that means it’s available to you, to everyone and anyone who believes in the choice, in Jesus.
The choice to never be alone, ever again.
I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t believe in fables.” “You don’t understand my situation, no one does.” “I’ll always suffer this, I deserve it.”
Let me tell you something as I wish someone did me with a warm embrace, a sincere heart, and deep loving look into my eyes:
You’re wrong, and you’re only hurting yourself.
I don’t understand your situation, yes, because I am not you. But I do understand your pain and frustration because I have felt it. I know it well, I had a heart like yours. You do believe in fables; in right beating wrong, in light winning over darkness, in being saved or saving others. Deep down you want to believe, but you’ve been hurt so much you’ve pushed it away to “accept reality”. I understand. And you should know, that at the end of the day all of us deserve nothing. None of us are worthy of the beauty that exists on this planet and the stars we see at night, of the feeling you get when you see a baby smile, of that bliss you feel when you hold your lover close, of the security you feel when a stranger extends kindness to you. It is too great for us, too wonderful and sweet.
And yet, the scandalous and humbling reality is that we have been given these things freely as a gift, as undeserving and abusive of them as we are. To eat, drink, and be merry, even more so with our loved ones. Is it so hard to believe then that a presence of peace, mercy, grace, and power has been extended to the undeserving as well? Because while eating, drinking, and being merry is amazing, it is only a taste of the real deal. Of everlasting love.
Circling back to where we started, whether we know or accept this invitation or not, it is the truth to know that we are never really alone. As atoms vibrate around you, through you, and in you to create the matter you see, hear, feel, touch and smell; so the presence of the everlasting God is in your midst. If you don’t know Him or feel Him, it’s a time to admit humbly that you are blind and astray. It’s not a condemnation or rubbing of the face, but an earnest invitation to see and come home.
So, am I alone or do I feel lonely? I smile and laugh at that question now, because I have been taken out of darkness and see the light. No matter where I am, no matter how I’m doing, no matter what is happening to me, no matter who is or isn’t around me, I am always in the presence of a Father who loves me. I am no longer who I was before; I am new, different, and clean. My job now? To let the image of majesty blossom through me like a seed that grows into a great tree where all the birds and animals come to find shade and rest. Thankfully I have brothers and sisters all around the world who know and seek the same, and we are all one.
So what say you? Will you let statistics, studies, the opinions of others, fear, anger and feelings rule you? Will you seek escapes in music, movies, books, games and physical pleasures to temporarily numb the pain you feel even in this hyperconnected synthetic society we live in? Or are you open to awakening to a real pure freedom and home no one can take away from you? It can only be given up through accepting lies and deception; it will cost you your life and the obedience of your heart, mind, and soul to keep it.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9