Eric Youngblood: The Awfulness Of All Alone

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - by Eric Youngblood

Apparently, the only “not-good” development in the paradise of God called Eden, before nary a square inch of lush green perfection had been stained by our rebellious disregard of God, was the un-matched fella who had everything, except, well, someone.

Someone to whom he corresponded.

Someone like him, yet unlike him.

Someone who might solve the problem of alone.

And from the text of Genesis any way, it isn’t Adam who notifies us about his problem. His Maker does. The divine analysis of the pristine and unblemished ancient world in its toddler years was that a fundamental incompleteness was marring the otherwise marvelous (and surely, mosquito-less) environs, where new creational delights awaited Adam’s discovery each second as he reverently paid attention to what was around him.

But neither the berry red brilliance of the embroidered edges of an Impala Lily opening its petals to the African sun, nor the sprinting Dama Gazelle adorned with handsome antlers, and donning a sleek fitting coat of rust with white under-shirt could dispel the Creator designed relational ache of the man with no companion.

You know what happened next of course. God reckoned that the “not good” of all alone should be remedied with a striking creature so “alike and yet so pleasingly unalike” that she compelled Adam to pen poetry! And the rest is quite literally, and indeed, history.

Secret and Serious

But these Authorial intentions convey something rather secret and serious. The secret is the unquenchable, but mostly unrealized ache to be known, companioned, and connected. But it’s a secret hard to put into words. Our mouths can’t easily form the syllables to adequately capture the sprawling extent of that loneliness. But it effects so much. Maybe there’s nothing about our lives this malady of lonely doesn’t stain.

Wendell Berry, in a poem called “An Embarrassment”, understands how vulnerable we are to this loneliness, and how striking it would be to ever hear, for instance “a lonely soul” lament its actual condition to God:

“Do you want to ask the blessing?" "No. If you do, go ahead." He went ahead: his prayer dressed up in Sunday clothes rose a few feet and dropped with a soft thump. If a lonely soul did ever cry out in company its true outcry to God, it would be as though at a sedate party a man suddenly removed his clothes and took his wife passionately into his arms.”

Whoa! I hope you’re still there and that your blushing cheeks haven’t overwhelmed your cognition for the moment.

There’s a lonely that nobody around us can ever quite guess, unless by imagination, and experience with their own, they might hazard an approximation. This is that cosmic loneliness of longing that marks our state, stuck in-between the already of God’s commenced earthly repair and the not-yet of a free, defenseless knowing and being delightedly and un-embarrassedly known.

Loneliness Not To Be Borne Alone?

That loneliness, is I suspect, something of our lot to bear. But dare I say, we shouldn’t bear it alone?

A recovering alcoholic is generally the best companion for the newly sober trying to learn a new way of life. Who better to bear a burden than she who has been broken, and re-built, fumbled and fortified under its weight?

And all of us, in our expert knowledge of various types of cosmic loneliness, have the resources, if we are paying attention, to consider and imagine, not our own, which comes so easy, but that of those around us.

In a book on suffering, Phillip Yancey insists:

“Every survey shows that a person who is connected with a caring community heals faster and better. Known “enemies of recovery” such as stress, guilt, anger, anxiety, and loneliness are best defeated by a compassionate community.”

As lonely but connected folks who belong to one-anothering communities of compassion called churches, we have a commission to anticipate, notice, and act, even if in inadequate, awkward, and fumbling ways, toward the loneliness in our midst.

The first place to look? The un-tied.

CS Lewis, in his bereavement writes to his friend Peter Vide:

“For I am—oh God that I were not—very free now. One doesn’t realise in early life that the price of freedom is loneliness. To be happy one must be tied.”

Freedom costs loneliness. Being bungee-corded to a community brings the salve of ameliorated loneliness.

So look around at who is less “tied” in than others. Give special consideration to the unhitched.

Unless you are a single woman, or an unmarried man, you may not have reckoned with the unintended but nonetheless biting sting of being surrounded by families. Especially if you are unaffiliated with any of them.

Christians believe that our first family isn’t the only important one in our lives. In fact, our adoptive family, the family of God called the church is a widening span of concern, resource, and happy formation for us. And plus, the task before us, like all God’s aspirations for his purchased people, are much too demanding and ambitious for any one solitary soul.

Jean Vanier, in Community and Growth reminds us this is a calling larger than for one individual:

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”

Look, Consider, Notice, Act

I’m wondering today, if we might ask Christ to make us aware and creatively responsive to the hamstringing ailment of loneliness that some of our dear folks encounter like a stiff, punishing wind coming off Lake Michigan in February.

Those whose marriages suffered a rupture. Those whose spouses have gone to be with the Lord. Or those who never had a spouse. And of course, those enduring chronic pain can tell you about a severe loneliness too. As can those who simply don’t think they belong, as if their entire life is a banished exile to the Island of Misfit toys.

As a community of Misfits acted on by Christ, moved by his sacrificial and welcoming love, let’s ask, (together, remember, for the job is too big for any one individual) that He might employ and equip us to take more notice, to extend more invitations, to do more including and visiting, and to help us open up our lives more generously to those who in our midst who’ve been entrusted with relational deprivations or alienating ailments of body they may not want at all, but which cause them a steady, anguished grief.

Perhaps, together (O, lovely word!) we can realize, in tiny steps at a time, more satisfying realizations of how good it is NOT to be alone, because folks discover they mattered to someone enough that they wouldn’t permit them to linger alone for long.

Grasping the possibilities of sustenance for the companionless in compassionate communities called churches, Phillip Yancey relates the following interchange:

“Someone asked a Lutheran bishop, “What is the best advice a pastoral or other counselor might give to a woman in her prime who faces devastating health problems?” His answer: “She should have been an active member of a vital congregation for the previous twenty years.”

As devastating instances of loneliness multiply, perhaps our scores of churches in Chattanooga, as we become increasingly attentive to the untied, forlorn, and beleaguered, may become known for proving that Lutheran bishop profoundly correct.

------

Contact Eric Youngblood, pastor of Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mountain, at eric@rockcreekfellowship.org



First-Centenary Among Area Methodist Churches Getting New Pastors

The Holston Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church met earlier this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C., and announced new pastoral appointments.   Among those churches getting new pastors in the newly redrawn Scenic South District that covers Chattanooga is First-Centenary UMC downtown. The Rev. C. Mark Gooden, a graduate of Hixson High, has been named as the new ... (click for more)

Men In Ministry Event At Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist On June 24

The public is invited to Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 1115 North Moore Road in Chattanooga on June 24 at 10:45 a.m. as they celebrate "Men In Ministry."  The guest speaker will be Dr. Bryan Johnson, Hamilton County School Superintendent. (click for more)

Red Bank Finalizes 20-Cent Property Tax Increase

The Red Bank commissioners voted Tuesday night to adopt the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget that includes a property tax increase. Mayor John Roberts said that along with the increase in both commercial and residential development, comes increased traffic. Infrastructure has not kept up with the growth, including the secondary roads. The cost of paving these roads is $1 million. Money ... (click for more)

Attorney Poston Says Man In Viral Video Seen Fighting Officer Was Trying To Break Up Fight

Attorney McCracken Poston said William Alexander Floyd, the young man seen in the recently published “viral” video who is seemingly engaged in a boxing match with a Chattanooga police officer, started out trying to break up a fight.   The attorney said, "Things are not always as they appear. There is a much more interesting story in the seconds leading up to the events ... (click for more)

The Boss, Claude Ramsey

I try not to overuse the word great, but we lost a great man today, Claude Ramsey. I had the pleasure of serving under him as director of Commercial and Industrial Properties for 14 years while he was the Hamilton County Assessor of Property. He was probably the smartest person I have ever known. He was tough but patient, kind, caring and compassionate. He knew how to get ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Please ‘Connect The Dots’

Get your crayons out and let’s play “connect the dots.” Next Thursday (June 28 th ) the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, in partnership with Chattanooga’s publicly-flawed non-profit educational foundation, UnifiEd, will hold its regional meeting at Chattanooga’s Bessie Smith Hall. The coalition was formed to advocate for “students of color” in Tennessee, and among those on ... (click for more)