I am not very good at being alone.
I do not mean alone in this world without family or friends. For goodness’ sake, I have such a large family, I’ll never get to the end of them. (Of course, I love every single one of them, in case they are reading this.) And I typically make friends easily.
I mean alone, as in physically alone.
When you grow up with seven sisters and two brothers, you rarely experience being alone. There’s no end to the amount of activity going on. My siblings and I spent many hours sitting and waiting in vehicles, and one thing we learned to do well was talk. And talk. And talk. I believe we could have solved all of the world’s problems–and we probably did, or at least, thought we did.
When I moved away from my family the summer of 2010, I had to learn to adjust to eating meals alone, to shopping alone, to going to events alone. Now I find myself many times in a quiet house with no one around. Although sometimes I enjoy the quiet, I find that I still have to adjust.
To be alone with my own thoughts scares me. I constantly want to have music playing or call a sister or have some kind of noise going that will keep me distracted from the absolute silence. When I sense the noise falling away, my ears ring. I fight the roaring quiet.
Recently, I read a blog post written by a good friend and former classmate, Sharon Rhyne. Her article, “Why I Want My Children to Learn to Be Alone,” spoke volumes to me. She writes about being physically alone, and how this is good for a person. It makes us focus on ourselves and God, and our standing before Him.
“It is so easy in the midst of people to be good and believe that you are good,” she writes. “It is so easy to not focus on the inner workings of your heart when life is noisy. You just do what everyone else is doing, and then they like you. And you like you. But believing in the goodness of oneself is a dangerous belief to hold because in the pride of self-righteousness we fail to experience the joy of the gospel.”
I have grown up in church. I know all of the right phrases to use, how to smile, how to nod and sing and pretend to be spiritual. And sometimes, sadly, I know I am pretending.
But it’s in the quiet moments alone when I finally see myself for who I truly am. Sharon points this out clearly.
“As obvious as it sounds, it is when we are alone that we do the things we only do when we are alone,” she says. “And those are the things that define who we really are. . .When you are alone you have to face yourself. And no one can take an honest look at himself and not shudder. No one.”
Maybe being alone scares me because I would shudder if I saw myself for who I truly am. Not only am I alone with my thoughts (and Sharon talks about the discipline in the thought life), but also I am alone with my emotions, my pride, my fear, my unbelief, my laziness. And that’s not pretty.
If I truly want to see myself as God sees me, I need to be alone. It may not always be pleasant, but the more I am alone, the more I can sense my need for Him, as Sharon reminds me here:
It is invaluable to me to see my need of Him, and then to remember that I have Him because of the gospel, and then to spend time alone with Him.
The roaring quiet can make me realize my need of Him. And I desperately need to see my need of Him.
P.S. Sharon’s post was excellent. You really should go read it here. In fact, just ignore this post and read hers.