Tag Archives: suicide

What I’m Learning about Loneliness and Solitude

lonelyThey’re not the same. But if you’re lonely, you may not believe me. I just ask that you bear with me and read on. I’ve experienced both, but recently have been learning the joys of solitude. You can read some background on some of the more recent chapters of my story here and here. It’s raw, but it’s real. Not much different than your life. Really. We all hurt. We’re lonely. We all do stupid stuff. Loneliness may be the cause of more stupid stuff (and pain for myself and others) in my life than possibly anything else.

Loneliness can be scary but solitude can be satisfying

If you’re feeling lonely, you often feel desperate. At least I do. Even though I bear the “only child” status, I am a people person by nature. When I feel like I don’t have a “person”(friend, companion, lover, etc.) it can be a scary place. It can make you feel like you have no purpose–that somehow, you’re undesirable or unwanted. Believe me, I’ve been there. It’s an everyday battle, but I am learning a few things. So here’s what I’ve done. I’ve embraced solitude. It often looks the same on the outside, but it’s a completely different perspective on the inside. It’s a total shift in mindset. In loneliness I tend to think about what I DON’T have. In solitude I reflect on what I DO have. When I have solitude, I have time. I have time to be, to think, to reflect, to write, to create, to listen, to appreciate the world around me. There’s so much out there to enjoy. And here’s a little secret–most of it came about by someone’s solitude. Take a look at the art in your city, the businesses, the culture…usually if not created completely in solitude, it was conceived that way. Sure, most things worth doing take a team to accomplish, but they are often imagined in solitude. That’s pretty satisfying. Take that class. Learn that instrument. Read that book. Just be. It’s ok and it can be quite satisfying.

Loneliness breeds desperation, but solitude breeds confidence.

Some of the most desperate thoughts and actions come from loneliness. Read the most tragic news and much of what you read can be connected to loneliness in some form. People that are generally happy with themselves and those around them usually don’t intentionally harm other people. What loneliness will do is cause you to do almost anything to attract attention, or will cause you to do anything to maintain the attention of people that generally don’t have your best interest at heart. When you’re lonely you’ll do ANYTHING to be with ANYONE. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Been there. Done that. Have the T-shirt. BUT, when you embrace solitude, you actually have the time to become the type of person that will not only attract the right kind of people, but will enable you to be strong enough to be helpful to anyone else along the way. When you embrace solitude, you embrace who you are and there is the potential to discover an incredible amount of confidence in that.

Loneliness cultivates isolation but solitude cultivates identity.

Out of our need to belong, we can often allow that need to dictate who we are or who we become. I certainly don’t want to minimize the importance of healthy community in our life, but sometimes we can allow community (of any kind) to CREATE identity rather than be FOUND in identity. It’s subtle, but it’s huge. Solitude allow you the time to discover, or rediscover who you really are. What are your interests when you’re all alone? What do you think about? What brings you joy? Focus on those things and see them through. Take the time. Do the work. Don’t anesthetize yourself with hours of social media browsing constantly comparing the best of other’s lives with the worst of yours. Put the smartphone down and do the work. It’ll change your perspective immensely. You may just rediscover who you really are. And there’s a lot of joy to be found in that.

Where I find my identity

If you’re reading this, chances are, you are a person of faith, as my blog largely focuses on matters of faith, art and culture. However, if somehow you’ve stumbled on this, then allow me a brief moment to share the source of my being. I am a Christ follower, and as such, I find my identity in being a child of God, which Jesus made possible for me by faith in his death (payment for my sinfulness) and his rising again (power over sin and death). I often hear his voice through the Scriptures and even in my heart (which may sound crazy, I do understand that, but is nonetheless very real and gives me an incredible knowing deep in my spirit which cannot be described). I will admit that this “advantage” may seem to give me an upper hand of sorts, in that in reality, I’m actually never alone. I also find great comfort in that. The good news for you, is that this same relationship can be yours as well. Follow the link below to see this relationship explained from the Scriptures. Also, enjoy the links below that may help you in your loneliness. They’ve helped me and I trust they can help you as well.

http://www.openbible.info/topics/loneliness

 

Blue Notes

photo by Greg Betza on flickr

photo by Greg Betza on flickr (CC)

“What you do doesn’t matter,” said that subtle, yet unnoticeably evil voice in my head one tragic Sunday morning last year. Most of the time, in my personal opinion, we give Satan far too much credit for many of the evils in our life that we are more than capable of creating ourselves (unfortunately, I know this all too well from experience). However, this morning was different, but I can only see that in hindsight now. At the time I didn’t know where it came from, but it was clear as a bell and I bought it–hook, line and sinker. Much of the back story of this day you can find in my post here (“When I Lost My Faith”).  You see, the day before this, a very dear friend (of the romantic kind) took her own life unexpectedly (having had a rare but recent relapse with the effects of PTSD). Not only was she a romantic interest, but she was a bright hope in what had been an otherwise very trying year for me. She was one of the kindest and most selfless people I have ever known. She loved Jesus and she loved her daughter at a depth that I have rarely seen. She was the poster child for inspiring. But she was gone. Even still, her sweet, precious teenage daughter was left without her mom. Needless to say, I was crushed to the core and so was my faith. Even still, the following day was Sunday, and the voice I heard came to me just as I was rolling into the parking lot to help facilitate the worship of hundreds of people that morning.

All I could think about in that moment was “You’re right. Some people will like what is presented today and some people won’t. They’ll all keep their scorecard in our upscale Atlanta suburb and pat themselves on the back for having done their religious duty, go home to their perfect suburban lives, and all the while my heart is shattered and a precious teenage daughter woke up this morning without her mom.” Of course that wasn’t true either, as some of the most devout believers I have ever known would be in that congregation that morning and most wouldn’t think that way, but some did and Satan always has a way of making ten sound like a thousand. Even in our upscale Atlanta suburb, wealth was no refuge to brokenness. Brokenness can exist in any socioeconomic environment and there were plenty of people hungry to see Jesus that day as well. But I bought it (the lie) that day like I never have before. That one lie started a downhill spiral for me that looked more like a negative “G” roller coaster than any hill I’ve ever seen. It stole my hope, my purpose and unfortunately, even my identity. I shouted questions at God louder and faster than any AK-47 ever could. You see, “sovereignty” sounds great in theory until it touches you or someone you love. “God has a plan…” yada, yada. Really? I wanted no part of that plan.

Fast Forward: God placed some of the best people in my life in the days and months following to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus to this hurting heart. Don’t get me wrong…it took a while and many repeated attempts (along with some really poor decisions), but slowly God opened my heart to seeing Him once again, but this time with new eyes, and better yet–a new heart. Please don’t misunderstand me. I still struggle with what happened that day. I may never completely understand the “why”. I’m still not convinced that it was “God’s plan” either. I believe a battle was lost that day, but I do know Who ultimately wins the war. I am more convinced of that than ever.

In the days following I found myself several times on “the other side” of the platform as just a regular, wounded child of God struggling for faith in a place where I needed to hear from Him like never before—and ironically, the lie that I believed that ultimately led to my downfall–it was its antithesis that ultimately led to my return. I was moved in worship in the most unexpected places. I discovered that brokenness doesn’t care about the style of music or what the worship team was wearing that day or even how cool the lights looked, but it does care about transparency, truth and grace.

There may have been people “keeping score” on those days too, but I was too broken to notice or care. Because some folks decided instead of “doing church” for the power brokers, and instead, being the church for the broken, my life was once again transformed. All I needed was Jesus, and in many cases, Jesus is exactly what I found. I didn’t need the latest from the “worship wars” or the “culture war”–I just needed Jesus.

In music there’s a term for sharps and flats that are not found naturally in the key of the music–they’re called “accidentals”.  In Jazz, sometimes these are referred to as “blue notes”. It’s what gives a lot of jazz and blues its characteristic sound. A great band leader knows how to use these “accidentals” to create and respond with something more rich and moving than the notes normally found within the key. In American history however, these “blue notes” often stemmed from pain and oppression. While none of us would wish for pain or oppression for anyone (especially ourselves or a loved one), take a moment and think about the beauty and colors that have come from these “accidentals”. What if God can take the blue notes of our lives and in return gives us something more colorful and deep from which to draw? Blue notes in the hands of amateurs can sound out of tune and off color, but in the hands of a Master, they can add a richness and depth to the music that wouldn’t have been there without them. Holding on to blue notes by themselves does nothing—they’re just notes with no context, but if looked at through the song of faith in the hands of the Master, they can have purpose and meaning that you otherwise would never see.

So, worship leader (or ministry leader), what you do does matter and it often is messy, but you are the ones who help people give their blue notes to the Master so He can create something better with them. Only, please do it with excellence and grace as if people’s lives depend on it–because they actually do. But you don’t bear that burden alone. Just show them Jesus and walk with them on the journey, no matter how messy—God will still make the music.

What “blue notes” is God making music with in your life? Share your story in the comments. Someone needs to hear it.

*********************

If you or a loved one are battling with the thought of suicide, please seek immediate help. No matter how desperate you may feel, this is not the end of the road and God will use your story for your good and His glory. Hang on and please seek help. You can find help from a friend, a pastor or from one of the resources below.

*Resources for PTSD and suicide prevention:

1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Hotline

National Institute of Mental Health

The Samaritan Institute

Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

 

 

%d bloggers like this: