There is about an eighth of a mile stretch of road that I walked every Sunday on my way to church in St. Petersburg. Well, I suppose I walked much more than that, but it is this eighth mile stretch of memory that has been haunting my thoughts lately.
It took me upwards of forty-five minutes to get to church but the last seven minutes were by far my favorite. I had to pass through a gated section that often had uniformed guards outside of it. The guards never bothered the pedestrians passing by, but they always checked each vehicle for authorization before allowing them to pass through the metal gates. The area had little traffic and always seemed eerily quiet in comparison to the bustling streets just yards away. This street was lined with large buildings, at least one of them being a hospital and I’d always glance up at the windows in hopes of gaining clues as to where I was and what I was passing through. I used to wonder what type of hospital it was- if the patients were able to come and go as they pleased or if the guards at the gates were there to keep them in. Farther down the road was a building that always smelled sickeningly of some sort of meat. I’d look in the windows at the ladies with their hairnets and I’d make up stories in my mind reminiscent of The Jungle.
It sounds a bit morbid, perhaps, these thoughts I would think on this eighth mile stretch of icy pavement. But I looked forward to this bit of walk every week. I liked it because it was quiet and hidden and mysterious and unknown. I liked it because it lent itself to melancholy thoughts. I felt lonely walking along this road but in the best of ways; lonely in an awareness of my utter need for God, my incompleteness without Him, and the inability of anything else to ever fully satisfy. The street made me feel small and insignificant, lonely and lost, in this huge, demanding, mysterious world. The street gave me perspective.
I liked my weekly walk because its deep emotions usually felt contained in that eighth of a mile chunk of ice and asphalt. The melancholy would usually pass as I’d eventually focus on a life that was too busy to just be.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling loneliness beyond the confines of the guarded gates. I won’t claim to be alone when I say that sometimes, maybe even many times, I desperately wish something or someone else could make me feel whole. There is something to be said for an embrace that comforts the soul, food that nourishes the body, or a hobby that distracts the mind. Something that can be physically touched or felt. Each of these, in its moment, offers temporary satisfaction and then as the embrace departs, the food digests, or the hobby fades, we realize we are left in want.
My loneliness has been disguising itself well. It has felt like fear. It has felt like anxiety. It has felt like disappointment. I feel it now, with my lamp lit and the rain against my window. But tonight, present as it may be, I am striving to feel it not as a burden, but as a gift - an invitation to stop trying to let anything else complete me and just rest in the love that has already covered me.
Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, this loneliness. Maybe its God’s way of reminding me that while I’m off trying to fill myself with physical manifestations of comfort…he is waiting. He is patient in his loneliness for me, wanting nothing less than to empty me to the point of His fullness.
God, please do not weary in your waiting for me. It is you alone that I want. Forgive me for my forgetfulness. Forgive me for my selfishness. Forgive me for my fear. I believe, but help my unbelief.