Where do you go when you are lonely? Where do you go when you feel all alone, but you want to be with someone who understands?
I was walking along the ocean shore.
It was cold, but I wanted to feel. Something.
Even if the winter waves blew sideways into me from the Pacific coastline, seeping through the yarn wrapped around my neck, I didn’t mind.
It tickled me around my wrist, right where the cuffs of my gloves moved up and down away from my coat sleeves, each time my arms swung out, in rhythm with my sandprint pace.
I’ve been holding on, for so many days.
Weeks really — that turned into months, the same way waves turn onto the sand so endlessly, you eventually lose count, if you stared into them long enough.
I’ve been holding on.
I’ve been holding onto to all the different pieces of my life —
My dreams, my hopes, my fears, my past, my future.
My strengths, my weaknesses, my memories and my prayers.
I’ve been holding onto —
People. People who tell me they are friends, but don’t have the strength to walk through the valleys.
People who did not love me. Even though they said they did. But, they only said so, to conform me to their expectations.
I took it all in. Since I was a little girl. And here I am now, a full grown woman, loved by her husband, children and friends.
I know this. I really do.
But, I have also lived this other life. Inside.
Unloved. For so very long.
Sometimes, holding on takes you to the loneliest place in the world.
Where no one except myself would understand the pain of neglect.
But, what has been neglected doesn’t go away.
You’d think it would.
Because if you tell yourself none of the things that move your heart and break it matters — that the only thing that matters is that Jesus loves you — you’d think it would eliminate the pain of things you don’t want people to know.
You doubt whether you have anything beautiful to offer — unless someone else says you do.
You question whether you are beautiful — because you’ve given your soul leftovers — focused on solving problems, avoiding conflict and orienting your life around safety.
That’s what I’ve been doing.
It’s not something I even understood myself.
It’s overwhelmingly lonely when God leads you find that innermost place within yourself.
There’s the shock and disbelief that such a place in you even existed.
Just like the sandollar I found halfway covered in the sand that morning.
The sea foam blew in clumps, crawling across the wet sand, like tumbleweeds across the Arizona desert.
As my thoughts turned heavy with the struggles of failing to write against the tide of post-traumatic anxiety and stress, I felt so utterly helpless against this season of healing in my life.
Never have I felt so arrested by what I want to do so badly, yet surrendered to the necessity of the difficulty of this journey.
Is there any place of beauty for me? I whispered tearfully, as the weight of my burdens pressed in on me, against the beauty of God’s creation.
I stood there facing the waves, as the gray skies answered me in silence.
As I looked at the sea foam rushing up close to my boots, I noticed a flat of white protruding from the sand down a few feet, as I followed the waves receding into the ocean.
I stooped to look closer and took the glove off my right hand.
I dug my finger into the muddy silt-sand and began to lift a shell out its grip.
The tide had suddenly returned and I instinctively pressed it back into the sand, in fear of it being washed back into the ocean.
There I stood, with my fingers pressed into the water onto the shell, while the waves rose up into my ankles.
I let out a yelp and hollered like Huck Finn, as water splashed up, catching a bit on my face.
But, I kept my position.
And as the waters rushed past me and I felt the sea wrap its passing embrace around my ankles, His words came to me, as clear as I felt my breath warm my chest in that moment.
I see you, Bonnie.
I see you.
My heart ached with such a burning sorrow, that I knew it could only be Him.
It could only be Jesus, speaking into the deep waters.
Out of the Corner
I know the story where Jesus was taking me into, that very moment.
The Scriptures tell us that the crowds were pressing in on Jesus. To listen to the word of God.
Crowds were pressing in on Him.
But, Jesus saw.
Luke said that —
“Jesus noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge,
for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets.”
With all the crowds pushing in, eager to listen to His words, you’d wouldn’t think Jesus would notice something as insignificant as empty boats.
But, He did.
Jesus noticed —
— two empty boats,
— at the waters edge.
Jesus noticed even this, out of the corner of His eye.
Because He saw the fisherman. Washing their nets.
The fisherman were done.
They fished all night. Exhausted and worn.
And there was nothing to show for any of it.
An Empty Boat
Then, Jesus did the most amazing thing.
Jesus got into one of the boats.
Jesus got into an empty boat.
I don’t want to hold onto all these pieces anymore.
This is the cry I spoke, as I held onto the perfectly unbroken sandollar I pulled out of the sand, dripping with sea kissed tears.
Don’t be afraid, Bonnie.
Lonely, I see you.
Lonely, I love you.
You are who I say you are.
This is what I heard Jesus whisper to me, as I remembered what Jesus told Simon Peter —
“Put out into deep water, and let down your empty nets for a catch.”
Where is your deep water, friend?
Where are the places in you that feel lonely — empty, if you dare whisper it to me in confidence?
Jesus doesn’t need us to come to Him full.
Jesus makes His home in us, even as we are empty.
Simply because He loves us in those places where no one goes.
What Matters More
Yes, it matters that Jesus loves me.
But, to me right now, what matters more is that Jesus loves the lonely parts of me — and He wants me to step out into the world from those places — as I am too.
And so, I whisper this to you, as well.
Don’t wait until there is no more loneliness. We don’t have to be alone before the brokenness recedes.
You are loved deep enough to be beautiful to Him right where you are traveling through.
I’m on this same journey, struggling to believe this to the extent where I can live from that place of faith, every moment.
But, I’m daring to live out in that place more, when I can.
This is after all, our testimony of faith — that Jesus is keeping company with us, in those very places.
— when I’m tempted to say yes — when I really want to say no,
— when I’m tempted to push past what I’m really feeling, and tell myself it’s not important,
I bring myself to remember that sand dollar I found last week.
I stand against the crashing wave of living as I am — empty netted, but beloved — seen and noticed by Jesus.
And I say yes, to even the smallest movement.
And I say no, to the voices that tell me I’m not important unless I choose otherwise.
I want to bring all of me into the present — into the moment with Jesus.
All the places that are frozen, that I left long ago, I’m trusting Jesus is leading me back.
He’s leading me back, so that the lonely parts within me can walk out into the open, into this world.
Jesus understands this loneliness of the journey to travel back home, paved with brokenness.
He lived His life fully out in the open, because He was the Beloved.
This was His song, that has become our Easter.
On the days we feel tired, when we feel lonely — in Jesus’ arms, we become the Beloved.
This is our song too.
How has loneliness been a part of your faith journey with Jesus?
What words are Jesus speaking to your soul today?
Pull up a chair. Our conversations here mean more to me than you may know. I’m so grateful for your confidence.
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