I am so lonely.
The words rolled off my tongue before I had the opportunity to think. Usually, I lead up to brutal honesty. Somewhere between the salad and the pizza, sharing lunch with a new friend, I found the courage to blurt out this deep longing. Karla covered the brokenness of my words with grace, inviting me to explain.
I moved from the cold, icy and gray Midwest to paradise about 18 months ago. Because of his job, my husband is still there and we’re counting the days until we are reunited. I forge ahead in a county known for its beauty, wealth and glorious sunshine.
Paradise has a price I’ve found and mine is relational. Having enjoyed deep friendships in the cold, I longed for fellowship in the warmth. Yet, people here are busy; too busy to share life together. You have to work to stay connected and for whatever reason, the energy of this place relegates fellowship to a non-priority.
Maybe it is my Midwestern values, but I want to relate, to live in community, to walk arm-in-arm. I crave finding someone who will encourage my dreams, share cheesecake with me, dry my tears, rush into life beside me with courage and conviction; someone for whom I will do the same. I want friends who really know me and like me anyway.
As a gregarious extrovert, making friends has never been my problem. However, here I am clueless on how to coax this level of closeness. Silence after invitations, emails or phone calls caused my insecurities to grow. I yearned for someone to laugh with, to find a connectedness that seemed so second-nature two time zones away.
I am so lonely. My fragileness hung in the air over our lunch table even after my story was exposed. Quite frankly, I expected Karla to retreat. She lives a noble life brimming with zest and adventure, which is what drew me to her in the first place. After speaking these words, I half expected her to think, “Who needs this?” and politely, but gracefully flee from the table.
Instead, she looked at me with love and asked, “Are you free this afternoon? Let’s go get our hair cut.” What followed was a divinely appointed whirlwind of activity. She took me to a Vietnamese hair salon, a Mexican mercado and an Arab fruit market because we also live in a county teaming with God’s glorious flavors of humanity. All the while, I silently thanked God for this surprise blessing.
Uprooted many times due to relocations required by her husband’s job, Karla understood how lonely being the new kid on the block can be. Only from the perspective of her own disappointments could she restore my hope. Overcoming her own struggles with finding and nurturing community blessed her with the ability to lessen the burden of mine. As she came alongside me to encourage, she oozed one thing – love. Well, maybe two – love and acceptance.
When we welcome to our tables those who might be different than us, the Lord meets us. When we linger there to invest in another, God blesses us. Community matters to God. For when we speak affirmation, joy, encouragement and forgiveness into another – when we truly celebrate fellowship – in one of God’s great mysteries we ourselves are transformed.