The fall foliage season this year has been extravagant. I can't remember a November where the colors of the leaves have been so bright and so rich. Apparently we had just the right combination of weather conditions this Spring and Summer to create an incredible display of Fall colors. With the peak of foliage at an end, I am reminded that some seasons, like autumn, seem to only last for a brief time, while other seasons, like winter, seem to linger far too long.
I've been thinking about the passage of time within seasons in my own life, most especially when I reflect on two vastly different seasons: seasons of solitude and seasons of loneliness. In solitude, I've been able to gather my thoughts and write, listen deeply to my soul's voice and pour my thoughts upon the page. In peaceful solitude, I have been able to listen for the Divine, to see with sharpness and clarity my purpose and passion.
It was in a season of solitude that I felt the peace of my decision to uproot my life, move hundreds of miles away and begin a new phase of my vocation. Like most academics, I crave the sweet solitude of a productive stretch of work...the writing that takes place in a coffee house when you may be surrounded by people, by alone with your thoughts and ideas. These seasons seem all too brief for the tasks at hand.
But there have been far too many seasons of loneliness and they seem to last far too long. Theologian Paul Tillich says: language has "created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone" and language has "created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone." These seasons of loneliness may find you surrounded by people, but feeling misunderstood, or unappreciated, or not affirmed, or simply invisible. Your soul longs and yearns for things it doesn't even have words to express.
In lonely seasons, we still do the work that must be done; we cross items off our "to do" lists; we continue to pay the bills and do the laundry and even have lunch with our dearest friends. But loneliness presses deeply into your very being and you feel like there's no place where you belong or you feel like there is no one with whom you can share your inner thoughts. You feel unloved. In these seasons of loneliness, even God seems far away, seemingly indifferent to your deepest needs and desires.
Afraid to be naked and vulnerable, we endure our seasons of loneliness in shame...ashamed to admit that with all our Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and real life companions, we can still feel deeply lonely...not just alone, but lonely. And yet, there is perhaps nothing more common in our human condition that those moments and seasons (and sometimes they are prolonged seasons) in which we feel lonely, and lost, and disconnected even from those who love us the most.
As a preacher, the sermons I often preach are the ones I most need to hear. And as a writer, I simply write what I know most intimately. So my sermon/word for today: there is a sweetness in solitude and a terrible poverty in loneliness. But each endures for a season. And when enough of us are brave enough to share our stories, our hurts, and our deepest yearnings, perhaps the seasons of loneliness won't linger quite so long.
© Yolanda Pierce