“Alone prevents a sole pretense…”
The above was a line from a poem in the student literary magazine of New Mexico State University circa 1963. It was written by a student a year or two older than I and it struck me as profound–and it stuck in my mind.
Around the same era there was a critically acclaimed Brit movie The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I saw it when it first came out. It popped into my mind during my 38-minute Sunday morning walk. Well, I’m not a long distance runner and any more barely a long distance walker, but I guess it popped into my thoughts because per most holiday weekends I feel alone. Today is Easter, Resurrection Sunday.
My official Celebrate Recovery (CR) testimony begins: “I am an only child and I think because of that I’ve felt lonely most of my life. Both of my parents were seriously bipolar. They were married and divorced to each other twice before I was seven. In between marriages to each other my mother had a brief marriage to a small town eccentric named Paul.” And so it goes. My point is that much of what has shaped me has to do with being an only child in a very dysfunctional family.
Well, when I was a kid I thought I came from a pretty big family and of course I didn’t realize that it was “dysfunctional” — as a kid you just accept what is and think it’s like every other family. My maternal grandmother was my biggest source of emotional support. She came from a family of ten siblings, and so when I was little I attended several massive Murphy family reunions. They were Irish, French and Chippewa — exuberant, and heavy drinkers. They were always coming to visit from Toledo and Detroit and we were always dropping in on them. On my father’s side there were also family reunions, tho smaller and less loud due to their somewhat dour Scottish/German character.
Anyway, today all the principle characters of those memorable events are long dead and most of their descendants have moved far, far away. By my late-50s I had lost both parents and all three uncles. My uncles were all childless and so there is a dearth of cousins.
What I have left is a few 2nd and 3rd cousins up in Ohio and my stepson and his family out in California. Today, I wish I were up in Ohio or California. My cousin Mary Sue will likely prepare a big traditional dinner and invite all the family, and out in sunny Cali my son and the grandchildren will go over to Grammy Nancy’s for an Easter egg hunt. Both events will be fun.
My “family” moment today will likely occur after church later this afternoon. A group of six or seven of us Sunday-niters will go out to dinner after Northland’s five p.m. service. It will be a bit bittersweet as last Sunday Pastor Joel announced that in two weeks there will be no more Sunday nite services. Going to Northland Sunday evening has been my routine for the past 24-years.
Anyway, as I was walking this morning I kept rolling around in my thoughts the big “why?” regarding my lonely life. Sometimes it’s self-pity and sometimes I’m just puzzled. The alone feeling is enhanced when you feel like you’re facing big challenges like health or finances, but likely most of my present “challenges” are in my own mind — it’s what obsessives do.
I strongly believe that God is in charge of every detail and so my loneliness must have something to do with His will. And I think, “Well, maybe I’m not worthy of having another wife or a big family.” Or nonsense like, “God is sparing some lovely woman misery by keeping me out of her life.” Anyway, I suppose its silly to think about another relationship as I’m well past my prime. My marriage ended 30-years ago. My son lived with me a few years back in the early-90s and in 2011, I had a roommate for a few months, but other than that I’ve lived alone.
But God has kept me alone for some very good reason. Those with a strong evangelical/missionary bent might say it’s so I can be more effective in ministry. I’ve done a few this and thats that qualify as ministry. Maybe Paul was right– but I ain’t the Apostle. . . or anything close.
Sometimes I think it has to do with growth. That’s where the quote that prefaces this blog come in. Being alone does tend to strip away all your pretenses — of which I have many. Sometimes I think my life has been one long painful growth experience — God winnowing away layer upon layer of crud. Sadly, oft times new layers emerge. God wants honest people. Not that being dishonest precludes a life of ministry. I could name a few both living and dead who’ve positively touched thousands of lives more times than I could ever imagine. Some not terribly honest, but the same God who can speak thru a donkey can use the most unlikely of people.
Anyway, I know that God is always, always present. Sometimes He lets me know that He’s there and sometimes I have to tune Him in. At its worst loneliness has been another idol but at its best it’s like the title of my book on depression, it has been another “Unwelcome Blessing” –and I also know God roots for the home team. . . and I think I qualify.