A couple days ago I went to watch the sunset on the beach with some friends. The surf was way too rough to get in the water, but it made for some great spectating as there were plenty of guys out on their boards catching the waves. I couldn’t help but to see yet another metaphor for my existence while I sat on the sand watching. Let me first preface this by saying that I know nothing about surfing.
It occurred to me that surfing is at once an individual and a communal event. There were at least 10-15 guys out in the water all at once, taking their chances as wave after wave came pounding on the shore and they were all wading in the same general area. Even though they are in the water together, when it comes time to catch that wave, they ride alone.
This is my life in the purest sense possible. I can be surrounded by a community and be all alone at the same time. I have people to uplift me, to pray for and with me, to encourage me. I do the same for them in kind. At the end of the day though, I ride alone. This is the most crushing reality of my new single life.
Waves come crashing in and I am alone on my board, taking my chances and hoping not to wipe out. Sometimes I’m doing pretty well. Life seems to go my way and I can ride on top of that wave, coasting toward the shore. Other times, it’s a little choppy. I can still be on the wave but it’s like navigating an obstacle course, bobbing and weaving, fighting to keep my balance. Then there are the times that I get destroyed by a wave that is too much for me to handle. I get pummeled by the sea.
Whether I’m succeeding or failing has nothing to do with the other wave riders out there. Nobody can catch that wave for me. They can offer advice, and help me to hone my skills, but in the end my survival is dependent on myself.
Many people would take this opportunity to tell me things like “God is with you, so you aren’t alone.” I think those words come easily for people that are sitting safely on the beach surrounded by their families. Don’t get me wrong, He is absolutely with me and I am beyond grateful. But the truth is that I am alone. Physically, emotionally, financially, and socially, I am alone.
I said all of that to get to this point. It’s okay to be alone. It’s not okay to tell someone who is indeed alone that they are not so. Yes, God is with us. Yes, He is our friend and our comfort and our source. What He is not is a platitude or a band-aid. The reality is that at some point, most human beings will go through a period of their existence where they are alone. This is a normal part of life, and it is vital to one’s well-being to experience the frustrations and disappointments that come with it as well as the victories.
Don’t dismiss the lonely. Don’t shame the lonely. Don’t punish the lonely Don’t put undue expectations on the lonely. Let them ride alone.