There I was and I had just confessed the thing I didn’t want to confess. I had said it out loud and I wanted to take the words and grab them in the air and shove them back in my heart for no one to see. I could see their faces and they were what… judging…pitying…? I just wanted to reverse time 30 seconds before. Could I do that?!
Oh…what was the thing that I confessed? In front of peers and parents? I’ll tell you. It happened in a conversation like this…
I was at the church of my youth visiting family. I was a grad student in Massachusetts studying my first masters…and things were not going as I dreamed. In fact, nothing was turning out the way I had hoped.
I was on brief break from my studies. Returning to perhaps connect with old friends. But my friends weren’t there anymore. And my friends of my youth…the youth of 2 years prior…weren’t fitting the friendships I needed.
And yes I was home…but it was not my home.. It was the home of my youth. It was too small for me. It was the home I longed for when I was away at college, but somehow I had outgrown it. And yet the world I was trying to grow into didn’t fit. Or perhaps the world didn’t think I fit.
And in the midst of this in-between, awkward, searching ‘fever dream’ I felt myself in at all times, I found myself talking to someone at my parent’s church. She asked me a simple question…something like, “Are you going to watch the Superbowl next week?”
Theologically heavy question this was not, nor was it a mind-blowing or particularly deep inquiry.
But my response to her…to my parents who were in company…to anyone in ear shot was soul-exposing.
My response was this… “No I’m not going to watch the Superbowl because I’m lonely.”
Then quickly did a spit take and said,
“What I mean to say is that I’m alone.
No..I mean I don’t have anyone to watch with.
No! I mean I don’t have a TV.
Right. I’m not going to watch because I don’t have a TV.”
Quickly I think I changed the subject to anything--anything–but my loneliness.
But the truth…. “I am alone. I am lonely…” kept ringing in my ears and confirmed why nothing…nothing in my life seemed to feel like home.
I can tell you it got better. But in that chapter-at that moment–I felt like I was a wandering vagabond in search for a place I could call home.
Loneliness–for as isolating as it is, seems to be a shared experience within our world, and especially our culture. Research in recent years suggests that for many people loneliness is more like a chronic ache, affecting daily lives and robbing our sense of well-being.
Earlier this week I read of a widespread national survey put out by the Cigna company. And it found that 50% of us feel lonely. And perhaps we like to designate loneliness to a particular age group, but the survey found that the elderly and the young equally feel lonely.
Some researchers posited that when we grow old our ability to physically connect with people is limited and isolates us. Perhaps this loneliness is intensified by the reality that we no longer live in the home of our yesteryear.
Other researchers hypothesized that so many of our young adults are experiencing loneliness as a result of us being surrounded by digital images of stories and great vacations that others have, or perfect dates not experienced by us, that without real connections, and real relationships–these stories and images leave us feeling empty. Lonely.
And what keeps us lonely–whether it’s the sage who is homebound, the generation Zer who is screen-bound, the parent who is time-bound, the family who is debt-bound, or the addict who is dependence-bound…what keeps us lonely is this belief that we are the only ones.
“I’m alone in feeling alone.”
Can I tell you that you’re not alone? You are not the only one.
At the time, I thought I was the only young adult who didn’t have their plans in order who was floundering at life. No worries…. You are in good company with fellow flounderers!
Some days I feel like the only parent who can’t seem get their stuff together and is just messing up. Over and over. And I know I’m looking at a lot of parents in the same boat. Welcome home!
To the family who is cash-strapped and looking at how to pay bills, you are in good company.
To we who have stared down a whiskey bottle, a beer bottle or a pill bottle–yes, you are not alone. Welcome home!
To you who are at the dawn and the dusk of this journey called life, and you are wondering about who will be with you in those dark nights of the soul–you are not alone. Welcome home.
Jesus invites us to be at home.
That’s what is said when Jesus shows us that he is at home with the Father’s love and the Father has made a home in him. Or as the beginning of the Gospel of John reminds us,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….the Word became flesh and dwelled with us.”
Makes a home with us and invites us in.
So what does this home look like?
Home is where we feel loved and accepted. Home is also where we are willing to receive help and where we’re willing to offer to help. Home is the place where we’re willing to be challenged in a safe space. Home is that space that no matter the screw ups, we can be honest. And loved.
And when we do church well–when we are the church that God has created–when together we abide with God and God abides in us–we are home for each other.
When we are the body of Christ on earth–we have a table ready where everyone has a place, we have a seat for all who are welcomed, we have stories to share, laughter to roll, tears to shed, and promises to keep. We get to be a model home for the great eternal home our God has in store for us.
Can’t you imagine that God has called you here to this place, so that you can be at home and part of making a home for others? We’re not a bunch of random people who happened to land up at 10 Delp Road. We are the body of Christ. Or as Jesus reminds us,
“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.”
To make a home for God to dwell in us.
We’ve been gathered here by our Almighty Father’s hand–guiding us to a place that can be home. A home where warmth and love and care dwell. A home where relationships are forged and bonded not by how perfect we are, but by how human we are. Human in the eyes of a merciful God. Humans who can be lonely and hurting. Humans who are made brothers and sisters by the one who welcomes us in.
And our home is marked by the cross of Christ. The one who came to serve for the sake of the many, is the one who invites us to know God’s love by living out the same servant life.
These past few months the mission statement draft team has been hard at work crafting a new mission statement. And here’s the proposed statement,
“Building a community of faith by God’s grace.”
The Mission statement draft team is working on the ways we may describe and envision this statement. And in the process the team reached out to our 24 different committees and asked them where they saw their committee’s work being lived out when building a community of faith by God’s grace.
The majority of the committees spoke about how they yearn to create community. We are hungry for real relationships.
And when asked about how they do that, most of the committees responded that community is created through service. The mission statement team themselves have said how deeply they’ve connected with each other and bonded in service to the mission of the church.
Something happens to us when we serve the Lord. Something changes.
Often in service we’re changed. Somehow in action, relationships are developed, care is grown, and somehow we make a home..a home where our hearts and souls can dig deep in the roots of faith, hope, and love.
Jesus speaks about laying down his life for his friends as an ultimate sign of friendship and service to us–his own. And perhaps you have known or heard of someone who has physically laid down their lives for a band of brothers or sisters. We’re invited to lay down our lives–perhaps not in a physical way… but in a way that creates home.
When we admit that we’re flawed and our lives are in no way as perfect as our Instagram account depicts, we lay down our lives.
When we encourage another to go first we lay down our privileged lives for the other.
When we seek the kingdom and God’s desires for us, we lay down the life that the world lifts up, so that we can dwell in the heart of God.
As one of your pastors, I pray that your heart feels home within your family of faith. You are not alone. Be home. Christ loves you. We love you. Together, we can love and serve the Lord.