Recently, I was thinking about how loneliness is a quiet, hidden grief. It’s interesting how you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. I remember feeling that way when I moved to North Carolina years ago. I was a recently divorced woman who moved over 2000 miles away from her family in Arizona to start a new job. I quickly found a church family and just as quickly attempted to find ways to get connected.
I remember asking someone after the first Sunday service if they had Sunday School. They shared with me that they had small groups instead of Sunday School (this was something I had never heard of before). These groups met once a week at someone’s house. It was such a foreign concept to me that I remember reviewing the list of all the potential small groups and choosing three different small groups to attend. I was eager to see where I might fit best. For several weeks, I attended all three small groups throughout the week. By the end of the summer, one man in one of the groups jokingly referring to me as the “small group junkie.”
It was the beginning of summer and I also decided to join a ladies Bible study. It met each Sunday night at the church. For several weeks I showed up to that too.
After reading this list, you might be tempted to think I was connected. But, let me repeat my first thought…loneliness is often a quiet, hidden grief. You can show up some place every week, you can go through the motions, you can smile and laugh with the other members of the group, yet through it all there’s this subtle need and ache for more.
Several weeks into the ladies Bible Study I was attending on Sunday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was tired of being surrounded by people yet still feeling lonely. I broke down in tears that night. I confessed to the group…I’m lonely. I practically begged that group for something more. I desperately needed a friend to walk alongside me. That’s when Michelle looked at me and said four words to me that I will be forever thankful for: “I’ll be your friend.” She went on to say that she was a high school teacher, it was summer break, and she would love to be my friend. (I would find out some time later, after our friendship grew, that she had been praying for a friend to come into her life.)
After that moment, she and her husband became almost like a surrogate family to me. I was like a stray puppy who had finally found someone who would feed her. They invited me over on a regular basis, Michelle and I started a one on one Bible study together, and we sat together at church on Sunday. I had a friend and the lonely ache subsided.
Today, my final thought is this: There is someone you will cross paths with this week who is in desperate need of something more. Don’t assume the person next to you feels connected just because they are sitting in a circle with you. Take some time to invest in that someone this week.