A little while ago, as I left hanging out with a friend and was going home to an empty house, I tensed up and started getting really anxious. I didn’t want to be alone. I was afraid of a Saturday night at home, because, well, I didn’t want to feel lonely. This wouldn’t be any big deal, if say, I was extremely extroverted, and the thought of a quiet night at home was terrifying to me. But I’m just the opposite, and I generally enjoy time by myself. I recharge when I am alone. But for some reason, this time, being alone was scary to me.
A few days later, I was talking with a dear friend about this loneliness. Where had it come from? It had moved in like a foggy cold front... Just hanging over everything, and blanketing it in a gray haze. Why did I resist being by myself? Why did the prospect of a quiet night at home with a copy of Team of Rivals and a glass of wine make me anxious? We talked, and as our conversation drew to a close, that same feeling rose up again in me: this quality time of hanging out was over, and I was going home -- most likely to an empty house, and not much else to do but peruse other people’s lives on Pinterest and go to bed.
My friend stepped in though, and pierced the thoughts that I was already beginning to have. (If you don’t have a friend like that, you need one. They point out the truth when we are too close to see it). She said, “Caroline, you shouldn’t be afraid of being alone.”
She expounded on what she said, and reminded me that there was a difference between being alone and loneliness. You see, I had started to fear being alone because, sometimes, that’s when the loneliness would start to creep in. But what I needed to be reminded of is that there is a stark difference between alone and lonely.
I had been running away from the very thing that I needed -- time alone, time in solitude. Because the truth is that there is company in our alone-ness. I am finding that those times when I am most afraid to be alone, those are the times when Jesus comes. Perhaps he doesn’t speak too much, but He most certainly comes. And in being alone, I am reminded, again, that I am really not at all lonely, but that He is there, ever-present with me.
There is much silence to be cultivated, and great stretches of solitude to be guarded, for these, silence and solitude, are as essential to the soul as meat and potatoes are to the body. - Eugene Peterson, Answering God