Monday, May 9, 2016

It Is Not Bad for Man to Be Alone

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.

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