I hear it in the rustle of the leaves from the light breeze. I see it in the slow tease of the waves lapping at the shore. I feel it in the depths of my being, slight whispers of peace, restlessness, and sweet, sweet nostalgia. Summer has arrived.
For as long as I can remember, summer has carried the significance of three months of forced, communal truancy from school. It also means watching the shadows cast longer shapes every night, rejoicing in the tickle of freedom that seems to wash over the entire community, and an endless barrage of mosquito bites. A pastime I will never tire of is the simple, serene act of sunset-chasing. There is a beauty in catching the golden rays just right, somewhere between the 6:30 rush hour from work and the local prime time showing on TV. As a person of deep emotions, I have found that feelings of loneliness often accompany me when I encounter this single moment which (should) shower me with overwhelming joy. Why?
Scripture says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV)
Jesus, like human beings, had needs. Jesus, like human beings, had temptations. Jesus, like human beings, had thoughts. Jesus, also the Son of God, recognized that there were broken, desolate spaces only he could mend, merely with his presence. However, he also recognized that without first approaching the feet of the Father, he could not provide even half of a solution. He could not do anything apart from God. Jesus returned to where he knew he was supposed to be, humbled before and in complete surrender to the King. Subtle nudges of loneliness did not pose a problem for him.
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7 NIV)
As people who continually fall short of God’s grace, we hunger for forgiveness. Our souls thirst for healing, a cleansing from the inside-out. We yearn for a freedom that looks like a bird realizing its wings were there all along, one that feels like throwing caution to the wind. We say, to know and love a God who can give that to us would just be the bee’s knees! Yet, we forget the truth of our very own words ringing in our ears. If we allowed ourselves to courageously be vulnerable before God, would that change anything? Would we be changed?
This summer, I am navigating a course that appears to sit on shaky ground as I am challenged and stretched beyond my known limits. However, I am also called to faithfulness. Faithfulness to the Lord, faithfulness to this community, and faithfulness to myself. It is not a calling with a specific explanation of what I am supposed to dedicate the rest of my life to; rather, this calling precedes my career choice, my relationship status, and even my societal identity. The Christian call is not always one of comfort and prosperity—more often than not, it resembles that of constant uncertainty but unwavering security in an incomprehensible God who lays out wonderful plans for His children.
Next time, as I hop on my bike in anticipation of catching the setting sun, I will squint up into piercing gold and smile, not with pitiful sorrow, but with the absolute gratitude of a girl who is reminded of those “lonely places” where not only am I loved, but I am 101% guaranteed to meet Jesus. For that, loneliness isn’t too high a price to pay.