OK, I admit this doesn’t usually come in the form of a question. I hear it from reliable sources: “Oh man, Bryan must be so lonely. He must go home at night, crawl into bed, and just watch TV.”
Truth is… Sometimes I go home at night, crawl into bed, and just watch TV. But that’s not because I’m lonely. It’s because I’ve had a long day and I need to vegetate — preferably with Funyuns and Mountain Dew in hand.
On average, I’m alone from about 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. — and that’s because I’m unconscious.
That’s the way I plan it. Several years ago, I decided to stop “being single” and instead to THRIVE in singleness. A top priority was to spend time with people. I couldn’t turn into the old man surrounded by cats (although that sounds delightful). I needed to be surrounded by people — those who could encourage me, challenge me, and sanctify me — and I could do the same for them. Community. That thing churches talk about but nobody really knows what it means or how to do it.
Here’s what it means to me: Spending time with married folks in their homes (i.e. inviting myself over for dinner). Being around their children — learning their names and talents and dreams. Having people over for my famous enchiladas (one of two meals I know how to cook). Spending a little extra money to visit friends who live far away. Staying up late or waking up early to Skype with friends in funky time zones. Saying yes to as many things as I can: birthday parties, barbecues, or helping people move.
Community turns the caricature of singleness on its head.
However, even with all that work and intentionality, sometimes I do feel lonely. But I don’t chalk it up to being single; I chalk it up to being human. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, including the married among us. They feel it when they’re grieving or battling cancer or having marital problems or wrestling with their own thoughts. It just happens. I think that’s where we need to correct people’s thinking: the experience of loneliness is for everyone, not just single people.
Of course, being the person I am, whenever I feel lonely I’ll always remind myself what Jesus said: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He is Emmanuel: “God with us.” God with ME. These are things I need to remember. If God uses the experience of loneliness to bring truths like this to mind — to remind me of his love and faithfulness and closeness — then heck, maybe I need to feel lonely a little more often.