If you could sum up your life in just a few words, what would your headline be?
As a newspaper copy editor for about 30 years, I had lots of experience writing headlines. It’s not easy. I had to summarize each reporter’s article in four or five snappy words that enticed the reader to want the details the story offered.
What is the story of your life? What headline captures your story?
I can summarize my life story in one word. It’s not a word even those close to me would choose for me. But it’s who I am.
Lonely people by definition do not share their feelings. Just the fact that I acknowledge this, perhaps, makes me no longer lonely. But I am still, in many ways.
Here’s another question that might be easier for you to answer. What is the first verse or passage of Scripture that connected with you? What verse first captured your heart, drew you in to the Bible and all it has to offer?
That verse for me is this one: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart Thou will not despise, O God.”
David wrote that verse in Psalm 51, which he penned after committing adultery with Bathsheba. I did not commit adultery, but when I was 15 years old, I heard that verse for the first time – and understood David’s point immediately.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, O Lord; take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing sprit.
“Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will come to Thee …
“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart Thou will not despise.” (Ps. 51:10-13, 17)
I did not “memorize” those verses; instead, I internalized them. I learned them because they changed my life. God, don’t leave me here. I am lost, and I need You.
I have never learned how to share my feelings. My dad is the youngest of six siblings – much younger than his oldest siblings. His dad was distant, his mom died when he was young, and his stepmom didn’t want him around. So, he withdrew into himself.
I have done the same. My parents are still together, still strong, but not talkative. We don’t hug, especially my dad and me. When I was a college student, I told my dad that I love him. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I knew then and I know now that he loves me, but it was hard because we had never communicated on that level before. Ever.
Growing up, we made out-of-state moves in the middle of second grade and just before ninth grade. With low self-esteem, I didn’t know how to find friends I could trust – because I couldn’t trust myself. As a teenager, I was grasping for something to hold on to, and finding only emptiness.
Until my parents sent me to church camp after ninth grade. The counselors and even the other campers accepted me for who I was – not because I did anything to earn their love, but just because I was there. This was a new feeling for me. They made it clear they noticed and accepted me because Jesus Christ notices and accepts them, and shows us all how to do that for each other.
I wanted what they had, so at the close of camp I asked Jesus into my heart as Lord and Savior.
Once camp ended I still had to face reality, but I wasn’t alone any more. Even so, it wasn’t an overnight change for me.
I had no close friends in high school. I did not date. I got good grades and hung out in my room most of the time.
When I got to college, God eventually brought me to a decision point: There is no middle ground with Me. Either you are all in, or you are out. So, Bill, are you going to follow Me, or are you not?
I pondered this. I realized that God wants the best for me. He is not an unknowable force, and He is not a mean God who demands servitude in exchange for favors. He sent His son Jesus to show me how to live, and then die for my sins. How could I reject that?
So, the faith that I accepted about six years before now became real.
And yet, the journey had only begun. This is not a fairy tale where the frog kisses the princess and they instantly live happily ever after.
I’ve been married 31 years. We have three sons. I tried to get to know my sons’ hearts as they grew up. I think I did pretty well.
But I did not spend the quality time with my wife that I should have. When we became empty nesters, we realized we didn’t really know each other all that well.
As I said at the start, lonely people by definition do not share their feelings. Neither of us share our feelings with each other much. And yet … God wants the best for each of us, and for both of us.
How do I share my feelings in such a way that she hears me? How do I listen in such a way that I hear her story? How can our broken stories combine into a beautiful tapestry?
Loneliness is a difficult obstacle to overcome. It’s a common ailment, but those of us who suffer from it rarely acknowledge it – because if we did, we might not be lonely any more.
Assuming someone is out there to listen.
Not just for a moment. But to listen.
Not on a Facebook post, where no one listens. Not in a text while we’re driving. Not while the TV or radio is on.
Listening is a lost art. Just ask a lonely person. He or she will tell you that.
If you can get him or her to talk.