It is not bad for man to be alone.
Those familiar with the biblical narrative know I've just co-opted a line from Genesis. Worse yet, I've contradicted a clear statement from the Bible. Speaking of Adam, God said: "It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). I am like Adam in so many ways: bearing God's image, betraying God's rule, and longing for a moment (or more) of unashamed nakedness with my wife (Genesis 2:25). But unlike Adam, my loneliness is good.
God did not handcraft me to fill the earth and father all peoples (Genesis 1:26-28). He did send me to Ethiopia to finish an adoption and father a son. And I arrived two days early. I wanted to adjust to the time, prepare our room, settle my heart, and do a little shopping. I fed the last of these desires this afternoon, spending a few thousand Birr* for keepsakes and Christmas gifts.
In spite of all my spending, reading, resting, and organizing, this primitive ill called loneliness has pinned me down. And I have embraced it. For this loneliness has made me more conscious of God's redeeming presence, the passage of time, and the people who pass it with me.
Loneliness & the Presence of God
God has affirmed His redeeming presence amid my meddlesome fears and stresses. The loneliness presses these anxieties to the surface. From point A to H on this trip, I have worried about missing a step, checkpoint, or start time. Even though all my paperwork is finished, I still fear something with the visa appointment may fall through -- my driver forgets to show; my agency forgets my file; my passport gets rejected. These fears are unfounded, and I hear God continue to say, "Trust me." Psalm 91 echoes in my head.
Loneliness likewise exposes my fear of people. It is fair to call me conspicuous in Ethiopia. I shout America louder than Donald Trump. However, my international sensitivities are higher. Too high. I feel apologetic, conscientious, and out of place. I assume everyone is watching me as I perform some cultural foul. On my first trip, Liz and the girls provided a constant sense of belonging. They are not here; I am alone. Yet in my dizzying sense of isolation, God affirms His redeeming presence. He says,"Fear not, I am with you... I am your God" (Is. 41:10).
Loneliness & the Passage of Time
Loneliness has slowed down the passage of time. (Perhaps this is how Adam could do so much in a single day!) My awareness of the hours I carve out for meaningful activities -- exercise, study, conversation, eating, service -- or flush on amusements -- Yahoo Sports, YouTube, and Jedi mind tricks -- has intensified. Yesterday I purposefully moved from desk to floor to balcony to hotel lobby to bed to divide up time. I alternated from writing to calisthenics to people-watching to eating to reading. Each event and location cut time into consumable bites, so I could swallow the lonely elephant.
Loneliness & the People I Love
Loneliness reminds me how much I enjoy the noise of my family (and my absence reminds them how much noise I contribute). Shared space results in shared experience. Thousands of miles (and unreliable WiFi) has limited our sharing; no shared meals, no spying on neighbors, no celebrating homework scores and track races. Every family interaction I notice here digs the lonely blade a bit deeper.
In addition to immediate family, my thoughts have wandered to friends, church, and other relatives. Every text, email, and Instagram heart is a lifeline. I hereby swear to redouble my contact with overseas missionary friends. My church lifted my spirits yesterday when on of its hip, young members sent me a live Tweet during the service. I liked it (and him #BrandenIsMyFavorite). Relationships enrich my lives and spare us from loneliness..
Loneliness & the Place for a Son
Of course, I would not want this loneliness to last forever. Indeed, I know it will not.
Tomorrow my loneliness will shift. Tomorrow I will fill the rib space with a new son. Tomorrow I will bring him to the place I have prepared for him -- where time passes slowly, thousands of miles from loved ones, but within the reach of God's redeeming presence.
Tomorrow Sensi and I will be alone together. And it will be good.
*21.4 Birr is equal to 1 US Dollar. One can spend 2000 Birr and not break a Benjamin.