The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” from the Broadway play, A Raisin In The Sun
I heard this quote on a Christian radio talk show recently with the host asking listeners if they thought this was true. Caller after caller agreed with this idea, sharing their stories of loneliness.
Aloneness IS a big deal. As I’ve asked people around the country what they are most missing in the walk with God and their calling, the overwhelming response has been the absence of deep, meaningful friendships.
I’m not sure that our “exceptionalness” is the primary reason. Many of us rationalize our drought of deep friendships by our giftedness, our walk with God, our “place in the Kingdom”, our mission or calling. I would venture to say that if our spirituality was extracted from us, we may still not have any deep, meaningful friendships.
I have heard phrases like:
- My spirituality intimidates people.
- I don’t do shallow talk.
- No one sees what I see, hears what I hear, knows what I know.
- No one can relate to my degree of spiritual warfare and spiritual burden.
This view of personal exceptionalness is not healthy, helpful or true.
The truth is that while our life and calling is unique, our heart and journey is common. You and I are exceptional, as are others who have encountered the redemptive work Jesus Christ.
I have heard hundreds of in-depth life stories and have seen my life in every one of them – with different details, but common themes.
The world, the flesh and Satan will use two strategies to isolate, incapacitate and destroy us:
One is diminishment – the thought that no one wants to be with me because my life is so small, mundane and disappointing.
The other is exaggeration – the thought that no one wants to be with me because my life is so large, epic and threatening.
The world wants conformity to one of these extremes. The flesh wants attention by emphasizing one of these extremes. Satan, knowing we are truth seekers, wants us to camp or abide in one of these extremes (distortions).
We are set apart, but not set above, nor set aside.
Our true exceptionalness originates first in our Christ-likeness (the fruit of the Spirit) and secondarily in our calling (the gifts of the Spirit).
The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Gal. 5:22
I believe that if we pursued and possessed the fruit of the spirit in our life we would have to determine how many deep and meaningful relationship we could handle, not how to find one.
So, if I had called-in to answer the question, “Do you think that ‘the thing that makes you exceptional…is inevitably that which must also make you lonely’ ”, I would have said, no. It’s the way that you relate to others with your exceptionalness that make you lonely.
God has told us not to be selfish, not to try to impress others, but to be humble, thinking of others as better than ourself, not to look out only for our own interests, but to take an interest in others, too. (Phil 2:3-4 NLT)
- If my spirituality intimidates people, it may be that I’m trying to impress them.
- If I “don’t do shallow talk”, it may be that I only want to talk about what interest me.
- If I think that no one sees what I see, hears what I hear, knows what I know, it could be that I’ve rarely asked others what they see, hear and know.
- If I believe that no one can relate to the degree of spiritual warfare and spiritual responsibility that I carry, then I’m thinking that I’m better than others
If we, in humility, offer our heart to others verses primarily our gifting, there will be times of laughter and crying, celebrating and sorrow, gain and loss, building-up and tearing down. (Eccl. 3). This is the life that we all have in common.
While our life and calling is unique, our heart and journey is common.
I love this.
Thank you. I will reflect on this.
Wow. Those five final bullet points are powerful. Gary, you’ve stated that our glory will at times make us feel lonely. And I feel that quite often. This is a good counterbalance that gives me some steps to make sure that my loneliness doesn’t come from my own selfishness.
Mark, these words were first for me.
True, Gary. While most of us experience loneliness, and all of us are exceptional in some way, there is no causation there. We might as well say it’s our fingerprints that make us lonely! I’d say it’s fallenness, and the alienation that results from it, that causes loneliness. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ: The story does not end there, and there is hope for not only our loneliness, but all the ills that emanate from the fall.
Well said, Cynthia.
This is valuable insight and a meaningful discussion that calls us to appreciate and invest in the spirit, soul and lives of others. Life is richer when you take the time and develop the ability to have deep, meaningful relationships. Having family and friends who care about all that we are is a wonder and a privilege. Too often, I spend days or weeks isolated in schedule, stresses, strategies and service to the point that I feel alone, empty and unknown. That never fails to remind me to take the time to love and invest in community!
You have observed my life – “Too often, I spend days or weeks isolated in schedule, stresses, strategies and service to the point that I feel alone, empty and unknown.”
Well said… and pretty gutsy to say out loud. I respect that about you. Great insight. I love the way you summarized it… Right to the core matter. I think this will really help people… It certainly has revealed some things in me.
Thanks for sharing,
Thank you Mark.
As for myself, others that possess this image (Glory)of “spirituality” sometimes intimidates me and/or makes me feel like I am not as good which may drive me to “pose” or to “retreat” from them. We often don’t realize that what others have to share may be one of the many tools God uses to speak directly to us!
This is so true, Gary. I have recently been alerted by God to an agreement with the spirit of Entitlement (ie. I have a right to myself, I have a right to expect to be treated a certain way, etc). I think this agreement is very common to the American population and I this is what may be operating in what you describe. I’d like to hear your take on this…
This is so good… Thank you for sharing this-it comes at a great time…
I overcame loneliness by spending time alone. Sounds funny but it was a time in my life forced upon me. But during those times I learned how to rely on God’s presence to fill the empty spaces and in-turn build a deeper relationship with Him. After coming out of that period I found that every relationship I was blessed with was like a bonus in life. I can relate better to people and if they will allow, let me into their lives as I open up mine. Perhaps we are called into loneliness for a time?
Fascinating. I believe that’s true, Ted. Thank you.
Do you think there are seasons in life that are meant to go deeper with God,so the friendships tend to fade away, for whatever reason? I have always been such an extrovert, I love deep relationships, and am able to relate to people on many different levels,but in the last two years, its as though God has not been allowing that to be, and at first, I was quite distressed about that, until I started to turn more to Him, and want to know Who He really is. I believe He will begin bringing key people back into my life. Its an interesting journey..
Yes I do, Rosa. In fact, there was a prolonged isolation / aloneness time that I went through and it deepened my relationship with God. I would have some concern if it lasted too long. There was a point when God brought my attention to 2 paintings (prints) in my office that I love. One was of 4 men riding horses across a river and the other was a lone indian sitting on his horse apparently scouting something. As I looked at these, God asked me, quite unexpectedly, which I wanted to be. My heart immediately said, the men riding together. Then God said, then go get those men. God wanted me to move toward deep relationships once again.