I had four hours to fill in San Diego between my son’s volleyball games. I did the calculations and it would only take me about twenty minutes to get to my old college campus, Point Loma Nazarene University. I hadn’t been there in ten years, maybe more. It was time to visit my old home. This once familiar road I drove night and day, now felt more like a distant memory.
I loved college. I loved the people, the experiences, the discovery. I also struggled in college. I didn’t have words for it then, but I do now. I was lonely. I had never been so lonely in my life. I was looking for a place to belong.
As I turned the corner onto campus, I turned off my music. I rolled down the windows and there it was — the faint smell of home. The salty ocean breeze whisked its way through my senses and I couldn’t help but smile. Everywhere I looked, I saw my younger self. I remembered the times I stood in line for a concert, counted down a sunset, and snuck around the library in a game of capture the flag. I saw myself everywhere. To my surprise, the nostalgia I experienced brought me more joy than sorrow. I think I know why. Even though a lot of my days at Point Loma were lonely, without them, I would never be where I am today.
The loneliness shaped me. It led me to dip into the dark places in my soul that I had been trying so desperately to escape.
I filled my life with stuff as a way to avoid the thing I was most afraid of, my loneliness. I used entertainment, relationships, busyness, popularity, socializing, spirituality, and school to avoid seeing my own heart back then. Walking the main campus road, sitting in the chapel, and looking up at the same San Diego sky again made me remember how alone I felt — but now I know, I wasn’t alone at all. God was with me, but I just wasn’t with Him. I was looking for anything or anyone to fill the gap inside of me.
For most of life, we are trying to fill this gap. We are pressing forward. Finish school, get the job, get the guy, get the house, get the baby, get the security, get the peace, get the stuff. It is as though gravity doesn’t hold us down, but pushes us forward like an unstoppable force. We are always in the middle of getting something or going somewhere. We are between children, between relationships, between holidays, between life stages, between jobs. In the middle of things, we have a hard time slowing down. We think to get to the next thing we must hurry up.
One of the greatest disciplines we can do in our spiritual lives is reflect. Reflection slows us down, helps us see, and allows us to remember God.
Reflection might just be one of the most undervalued disciplines in the Christian life. We fail to make the connection that our past is the pathway for us to the future. By remembering God’s faithfulness, contemplating God’s goodness, and recalling the miracles God has done in our lives, we then have the ability to trust God with today and tomorrow.
The invitation for you, if you are in the middle of something, is to reflect. Look in the rearview mirror, walk a childhood street, sit under that tree you used to climb. Reflect. Remember. Recall. The way forward isn’t to get, get, get. The way forward is to venture down the back roads of your past and discover the fingerprints of God in your life. Be reminded of how God’s grace greeted you and gave you the courage to keep going.
I snapped pictures and sent them to some old college friends. I lay for a long moment in a patch of grass that once held a significant conversation. I laughed, imagining how my friends would gather around in the cafe. When I drove off campus, I kept my windows down and played an album that I always listened to on repeat in college. I remembered all the lyrics by heart. I drove twenty minutes back to my son’s game.
My family was my home now. Parking outside the volleyball gym felt like I was reentering reality. I’m not as lonely as I was in college, but I still do lack courage sometimes. I still do run away from my pain. I still am tempted to fill my sadness with stuff. When I do want to outrun my own soul, I remember that every road forward doesn’t lead to the next thing, but every road leads me back to the love of God. Before I pop out of my car, I tilt my head back and reflect on how home isn’t a place, but the person of Christ.
This spoke to me in such a deep level. Thank you so much as it was just what I needed to read this morning. Home is the person of Christ and even when we don’t feel He’s there, he is and always has been. Reflecting this morning on all Hes gotten me through in order to remember that He’ll get me through my current struggles as well.
I’m so glad it encouraged YOU!
Thanks for your relatable insights, vulnerability, and taking us with you on your route of reflection. I found such connectedness and truth in your words. I agree our true home is in Jesus.
You are welcome. May you continue to be encouraged today!
Susan Curtis says
Spoke to my heart! I am a missionary kid who grew up overseas (left the mission field at age 19), and I often get so lonely for my childhood home! Thanks for the reminder that Jesus is my home and He is with me always!
Wow. You must have quite a story! May the Lord continue to meet you in your longing for home.
Patsy Hockaday says
This one hit it. I have often wondered how, in my past, when I was scurrying around “looking for anything or anyone to fill the gap inside of me” I ever made it out alive…”but now I know I wasn’t alone at all. God was with me, but I just wasn’t with Him.” Thank you for putting it in words and thank you for reminding me that we are never alone, even when the lie is whispered over and over that we are.
We are never alone. Even if we feel alone, we truly aren’t. Bless you!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
We all can in times in our life feel so lonely. I been that way Anjuli even when had company around me. I felt like wall flower drooping looking for a drink of water. If you heard the saying. Especially with my Sister’s. Yes they can be kind so to me at times. They invite me to meet them for coffee. But they are not saved. I am the only saved in my family along with my Husband. They start talking among either about their kids or work or this person or that person they know or something else important to them. See I don’t have that many friends. I don’t know why people don’t want to be my friend at one time it did annoy me that people didn’t want to be my friend. Now it doesn’t get to me. They my sister’s say after spending so long taking to either Dawn are you ok. I say yes I fine as it nice to see them but it would be nice for them to talk to me more often. I when they are in their own world talking to themselves. I am sitting there saying to myself why am here if they are not going to spend more time with me and talk to me. I feel so lonely and like a wall flower waiting for a drink or water. I just think why did I come. I should have stayed at home. But then I hear God say Dawn just pray for them quitely to yourself when they are taking among themselves and not paying you much attention. At least you made the effort to be in their company to see your sisters. I hear the Lord also say he is beside me that I am not on my own even if feels like it. Then the Lord says too me I am here for you talk to me. I hear the Lord says also to me know it not nice they talk among themselves and not to you as much as they should. They ask you along for to join them for coffee so as they can spend time with you their sister I am here God say. But they don’t realise they are not spending time with you by talking to you as much as they should. That is why you feel so lonely God says to me. Do what I told you quitely pray for them. When they do include you be happy. Be happy also God says to me your in their company even know they don’t see they should talk to you more. Your not really lonely I am beside you God says I will never leave you. That changes the lonely feeling for me anytime I meet up with my sister’s and they chat away to themselves. Give me a little of my time to pray quitely for them say I pray and let me remind myself I have God besides me for company so I am not lonely anymore. Love today’s reading. Keeping you all in prayer incourage. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Dawn, I am so moved by your vulnerability. Thank you for inviting us into your story of loneliness. It is hard to be with people who SHOULD know us, but don’t… especially family. Even in your pain the Lord has been good to you. He sits with you as you listen to your sisters chat. He reminds you of His presence. He sees you. What a gift.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Thank you for your reply for what I wrote to your message. It has been hard. But God when he spoke to me that I am not alone he with me. Especially when my sister’s in my loneliness. When they seem to do not realise they leave me out. Not meaning to. As God has said I with you. So that has told me I not alone. As I said in my reply that has helped alot. Plus doing what God told me that is praying quitely for my sister’s. Thank you again for your lovely reply Ajuli. Yes my sister’s should know better as you said not leave me talk to me more. As I go to spend time with them. I think it just as said all along they don’t realise they are leaving me out so much. What God told me to do in those times has helped lots when with my sister’s and that he told me he there with me. He will never leave me nor forsake me has helped me alot. So when I met them I don’t feel the loneliness as much times I don’t feel it at all. When they talk among themselves. I am praying quitely for them. Thank you again for everything. I love you all incourage in the Lord if don’t see you any of you this side of earth see you one day in Glory. What chatting we will do then. Thank you so much for theses reading. They have helped me so much in my walk with God. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little Enniskillen Co.Fermanagh N.Ireland xx in my prayers
Bev Rihtarchik says
Even though I accepted Christ at a young age, it took me many years of attempting to fill the gaping hole of sadness, loneliness, and emptiness with activities, human relationships, accomplishments, stuff…until I realized I needed to plug into a genuine relationship with God. That Ah-ha moment so often comes in the midst of trials. All the surface stuff disappears and you realize Christ is all you/I need, because right now He’s all you/I have. Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing.
Yes, yes, yes! So good and true!
Beautifully written reflection. Thank you
You are welcome, Sarah!
Anjuli, Thank you for sharing this! A reminder of reflection on God’s goodness is most welcomed and refreshing. Saving some of your notes if you don’t mind
My mom used to always tell me I was wishing my life away. I try to stop myself but I’m not always successful. Thank you for the pause.
Beth Williams says
When I start to feel down or depressed I reflect on all the trials/tribulations God has gotten me through. Remembering when & how He put my hubby & I together. Reflection is such a wonderful tool. It helps me to realize that God has been there with me through it all–the good & bad! I can see His fingerprints all over my life.
Hayley Williams says
This was so good and spoke to my heart. Thank you.
It is I, who Thank You..
“Thank You” for your article and one that I truly related to. As we know there is a big difference between being alone, and loneliness. And for the most part of my life I have to say that I’ve had no problem being alone. As a matter of fact I do enjoy it and am very comfortable with myself. For as long as I can remember I have always Reflected, and sometimes laugh at myself and wonder if I was born reflecting! (I know, crazy). But for the past few months, I’ve been struggling with loneliness which for me is a little odd, and even at times uncomfortable. But I also had the opportunity to go back and visit my own school but it was a little different, for me. I never had more of a sense of belonging as I felt while there and.. never since. But what I can say is that I know that God IS wherever I am, and not a place that I need to go find, or need to go back to. And that wherever I am, so too Is He, and His Peace. I still don’t understand why I’ve been suddenly struggling with these feelings of loneliness and only because that’s never been like me. What I do know is, that there’s no question that I’m Not alone, In it. And just maybe.. God is trying to draw me closer, to Him, in this place of what feels like, solitude and/or desolation. Lastly, there was something that drew me to read ‘your’ article and I’m so glad that I did. I haven’t been having the desire to read much lately and so I almost kind of felt that I was lead to Yours. Anyway, I want to thank you again for your article, I hope one day you’ll be sharing again, and God bless You!!
What advice would you give to someone experiencing loneliness? Pray? Read the Bible?
Kathy Walter-Churchill says
Thank you for this! Such a great reminder that in the midst of pain is often our greatest time of growth. Ty