The Gift of Loneliness

2014-07-15 12.59.42I remember, some ten years ago, falling on my knees at Notre Dame’s grotto, disconsolate. I had plenty of friends, I thought, but I was so alone. Nobody really knew me, nobody understood. I turned my heart to heaven and begged the Lord for one friend.

“I just need one person who really loves me!” I cried out, and I got the distinct feeling that he answered: It’s me.

“No, I know. But I just need someone who’s going to be on my side.” Yup. Me.

“Right, but I’m just so alone. I don’t even need someone who’ll give me advice, just someone who’ll listen.” I’m listening.

“No, but somebody who really knows me, who gets me.” Yes.

“And who loves me anyway.” Right.

“Jesus, I get that you love me, but I just need a friend!” Yes. You need me. And that’s all you need.

I quit my temper tantrum eventually and started to listen. I started to see how he had been loving me so well for so long but how he had recently started to wean me off the friendships that I’d turned into idols. He’d broken down the walls of popularity I’d built around my heart, forced me to take my troubles to him instead of to half a dozen people who’d agree with whatever conclusions I’d already come to. I’d just finished one of the hardest years of my life and I’d come out more alone than I’d felt in years. Because all the love in my life had been separating me from him.

I spent the next year learning what it meant to be loved by God. I learned to process my wild emotions in prayer instead of on Instant Messenger. I wept in prayer instead of in Starbucks and let him define me. After years of following the Lord, I began to love him with an intimacy I’d never imagined. And I found that I wasn’t lonely anymore.

The kind of friends who are always up for a little prayer time.

The kind of friends who are always up for a little prayer time. Even on the way to a wedding.

And then he gave me friends. Incredible friends, the kind who ruin you for relationships with less amazing people. And I was mostly happy, but not always. Those friends married and started families while I was still alone. And the loneliness returned, causing me to question whether I was worthy of love. But I ran to the Lord and he reminded me who I am in him.

I moved into the real world and tried to find friends outside the beautiful community of Notre Dame. Turns out, it’s not that easy. While I loved my kids more than I could have imagined, I didn’t have much of a community. But God shook the complacency of my heart and I began to fall in love with him.

I entered a convent and left to find myself surrounded by people who couldn’t understand the heartbreak of giving your life away and then having it given back. I was shaken and confused and nobody sensed that, nobody got it. So I turned again to the God who listens and understands and loves me the more for my brokenness.

Not all of them. Some of them look at me like this. And it's all worth it.

Not all of them. Some of them look at me like this. And it’s all worth it.

I moved again, built relationships again, and found that as much as I loved my kids they were always going to ignore and betray and reject me. So I turned to the Lord again, handed him my bleeding heart again, and asked him how I could keep doing this, how I could keep standing alone and loving people who would spit in my face for my troubles. And he showed me his bloody, bruised, thorn-pierced image and reminded me that this is exactly what love is.

Again and again, the Lord leads me into loneliness—or perhaps I run there on my own—so that I’ll turn to him again, find myself in him again, let him be my rock again. And I’m so grateful.

Since I started hoboing, I’ve been asked again and again, “Aren’t you lonely?”

“No.” I’ve glibly responded. “I spend time with the Lord every day, and he’s the most important person in my life. Besides, I get to see all kinds of wonderful people in my travels.” It’s true, of course. I see my best friends more than I ever did when I had to live in one place all the time, 600 or 1000 or 3000 miles away. And the only thing that keeps me sane is my time with Jesus, when I sit before the Blessed Sacrament and am known and loved.

But lately, I’ve been a little lonely. Not having a community will do that to you, I suppose. But I think it’s more than that. I think it’s a gift: God making me ache for something more so that I’ll draw deeper into him. And I hope you feel it too.

I hope you’re lonely. Regardless of how much your spouse loves you or how many friends you have who understand and encourage and challenge you, I hope you’re lonely. I hope that none of your relationships leave you satisfied. Because they aren’t made to satisfy. The only relationship that will ever satisfy you is your relationship with God. Any time you find yourself convinced that somebody else completes you, take a step back. It’s idolatry. And it’s a lie. People will sin. They’ll misunderstand. They’ll expect less of you than what you’re capable of. Your husband, your daughter, your spiritual director, your best friend: they’re not enough. And while it’s a grace that we may feel satisfied for a time, the loneliness will always return to remind us that the only one who will complete us is the Lover of our souls.

Remember this when you’re lonely: you will find what you long for only in the one who created you, the one who died for you, the one who knows you through and through and loves you just the same. Let that loneliness drive you to the foot of the Cross, where Love was poured out for you. You are not alone. You are loved beyond imagining. And the loneliness that reminds you of your need for that love is a gift.

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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18 Responses to The Gift of Loneliness

  1. Pingback: The Gift of Loneliness: by Meg Hunter-Kilmer | Faith in our Families

  2. Clare says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth…!

  3. Michael Grier says:

    Awesome post! You are living what Augustine said in the very first paragraph of his Confessions. Thank you for your honesty and genuineness.

  4. Richard Ellis says:

    Great insight, Meg. As one who has experienced profound loneliness and who has tried every form of sinful behavior to alleviate it, I have found the answer in Jesus’ nearness and felt the touch of His loving and merciful hands on my shoulders. Thank you for this, Meg.
    Richard

  5. kathie says:

    Thank you. I literally cried out to the Lord about this for months. Through my tears, frustration, abject loneliness, He was whispering this the entire time. Then, He had you write this. Thanks be to God.

  6. Matt says:

    Thank you Meg for writing this article. I really needed this article. It has helped me tremendously. Thank you Lord Jesus for using her.

  7. Susie says:

    Thank you so much for this. I first read it last night and it was exactly what I needed to hear, and helped give me a final push to go to confession today, which I’ve been putting off for several weeks now for no good reason. The Holy Spirit speaks well through you! Thank you for allowing him to!

  8. Uche says:

    … true joy in true loneliness! You just made my Sunday unique. God bless your resolve and grant me just a little of such!!!

  9. Vicki says:

    Meg,

    Thank you so much for this blog and your willingness to be an instrument of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. So very few people are willing to share what the “hole and loneliness in our heart” is and how idolatry can take place. How fortunate we are to have God’s grace and salvation to heal us.

  10. Lori says:

    Isn’t it incredible that Jesus makes His presence known in such a tangible way? Mind blowing! #mostblessedontheplanet

  11. Tina Smith says:

    Your writing is always beautiful, but this post particularly so. It really hit home and has reminded me to pray more each day. Thank you for allowing yourself to show your vulnerabilities and in turn helping us embrace ours.

  12. Bryan says:

    You pretty much just recited what has been going on in my heart for the past year. But of course, you explained it much more eloquently than I can! Fo real, this is strikingly similar to my journal entries for a while… This is something very real and very important that everyone goes through and needs to know to enter more deeply into their relationship with Christ. Keep it up, love your blog!

  13. Luke Stager says:

    This was exactly what I needed. Thanks so much for this post!

  14. Emily says:

    You described so well the loneliness in my heart, and have given me so much courage and hope. Thank you for being an instrument of the Holy Spirit! 🙂

  15. Fr. Brench says:

    Wow, thanks for this reminder; it’s beautifully written.

  16. Pingback: Claim Your Cross | Incurably Wounded

  17. Christina says:

    Awww Meg! I thought of you a couple of weeks ago when the reading in Mass was about Jesus sending the deciples out in pairs. I thought, “Oh but Meg goes out all alone! That must be hard and lonely. I got this amazing feeling that as hard and lonely as it is, it is worthwhile and inspiring and that I should tell you so. I meant to send you a private message and kept putting it off and then you post this and I remembered. ? I had suddenly realized you weren’t a hobo at all. You’re a present day Disciple. That’s amazing! Don’t give up.

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