If you don’t leave the battlefield of the first encounter as a victor, rest assured – you will face that enemy again. For me, the enemy was loneliness, and the first time we squared off it kicked my butt. It almost literally killed me, and it certainly managed to steal years from my life, causing pain and confusion and a chain of events that led to the loss of myself for over a decade – until I met my nemesis again.
The gory details? I’ll try to be brief, but you may relate to some of this.
I found myself in a new school, new town, new country – at the age of 16. I tried to remain true to myself (although at 16, we aren’t always crystal clear on who we are to begin with) but as the months wore on and the deep crushing loneliness tried to suffocate me daily, my reserve began to crumble as my anger towards God increased. I couldn’t help asking WHY, and was becoming tired of not receiving the answers to my pleas… mainly my desperate request to find good friends like the beloved ones I had left behind. But the stone cold silence which I received started to turn my heart cold as well.
I finally sold out – “Teach me to smoke”- I told a friend as I took her pack from the glove compartment. “Are you sure???” My request shocked her. My resolve had crumbled. I was entering open rebellion and was going to do everything I was taught not to as a way of showing God what was what. If He had abandoned me, then I would abandon Him even more.
But in truth I was abandoning myself.
For the next few months I threw myself into all of the reckless pursuits I had been warned about not only by my parents and my religion, but by my old friends as well. To hell with it all.
I woke up several months later in so much pain that when the idea of suicide was gently suggested to my mind, I agreed that it sounded like relief compared to this lonely hell and I decided to end it all. My rebellion wasn’t numbing me enough so I resolved that if nothing changed within a few months I would end it all over the summer.
So you could say that the pressure that loneliness put on me caused me to crack, to question everything I knew and believed, to go against all that I had once held dear and true. Loneliness 1 – me 0.
Fast forward ten years down the road. I am now close to 26 years old. I have 6 and 4 year old boys who are my world, and a very stressful marriage to their father. Having never forgiven me for getting pregnant at the age of 19 (I ruined his freedom), he controls the house with his moods, his anger, the threat of his disapproval, and his inability to provide regularly for the family. As I begin to seek help which precipitates a separation followed by the disbanding of many of my friends, I feel a familiar presence enter the home. Loneliness is back. We meet again. Here to do more damage I suppose…yet God had me in some serious training at that point, and I was slowly learning how to stand.
Fast forward another 4 years. I am a single mom, living in a rented townhouse, going to college full time during the day and working evenings and every other weekend at a local Starbucks so that my boys can have medical benefits. I haven’t felt the touch of a man in years. I have no time or energy to devote to that anyways, but I hunger and yearn for a partner who will love me, who will be there – who will beat this lingering loneliness for me. I am too weak…I can’t keep doing it all alone.
I remember crying on my bedroom floor, holding myself and rocking back and forth, racked with pain, when that old enemy whispered to me again: just end it all. A picture of me lying in the bathtub and slitting my wrists came into my mind, softened by the promise of peace and an end to my agony. The scary thing was it didn’t shock me and I wasn’t repulsed by it. But by now I had learned to do battle – I had learned to recognize the voice of lies. He went too far and revealed himself – now was my chance to get back in the arena and settle the score.
Through prayer and by mustering up the strength to call a good friend at 2 am, I made it through the night. I continued to do battle over the next few weeks, calling out and disarming lies, reaffirming who I was and where my worth came from, speaking truth and light into the darkness every time it reared its ugly head.
Like Much Afraid in the book “Hinds feet in high places” I too eventually learned to make peace with loneliness. In fact, he wasn’t really the enemy I thought he was. Sometimes loneliness needs to be part of our journey, and the truth is that without it, some of us cannot find ourselves. We get so wrapped up in others, that we can’t see the beauty and the strength that we possess. Sometimes God needs to clear others away in order to do business with us.
I wasn’t ever really alone.
Loneliness served the beautiful purpose of helping me to find myself, of learning to stand on my own, of growing up into a strong woman.
Whatever your battle is, believe me when I tell you that it is here to teach you about yourself. Learn from it. Don’t let it defeat you – the way I did the first time. It took me years to reclaim all that I had lost from that defeat. And maybe it’s too late – maybe right now you are laying on your back in the middle of a bloody battlefield. Take heart. Crawl off, go into the valley, be quiet and still, learn from it. Get in touch with the truth of the situation, the truth of who you are, and the power that God provides. Learn all you can, take time to heal, train, get stronger, and then get ready to face off again. God will not rest until you have victory over your enemies. He will set you free, and someday you will be able to look back and thank Him for the battle scars because they have made you stronger and wiser and most importantly: free.