The Loneliness of Hiddenness

Self-portrait of loneliness

January 2011

Malibu, CA

A few weeks ago, in a course I'm taking on Henri Nouwen, the instructor asked us to consider our current experience of loneliness. It was an invitation from the heart of Henri Nouwen, one so deeply acquainted with loneliness in his own life, to turn our loneliness to solitude. This is a movement that requires our identification of the lonely places in order to move torward solitude.

When I received that question, my mind immediately flew to several instances in my life's journey where I have experienced acute and painful loneliness . . . except the question didn't ask about my past. It asked about my present. Where am I experiencing loneliness right now?

The truth is, I didn't realize I was experiencing loneliness until asked that question. But once I saw my current loneliness, I saw it everywhere. It is now overwhelmingly present to me. Loneliness has become my companion.

I'd like to share about this loneliness with you.

I've written here about my prayer to become God's hidden one. This is a prayer that took root in my heart in July 2009 and led into a strenuous, often chaotic, but ultimately beautiful journey to surrender and peace. It's a journey I still walk to this day.

Since the time in late October when I realized God has been answering that prayer, I've experienced an overwhelming stillness at the very center of my being. I feel God and I communing together in that place all the time. It's the place I live from most of my days. It forms the central root of my being. It's where I belong with God.

But I've realized that it's also lonely. No one else is there but God. And no one else, no matter how I have tried to describe the reality and beauty and peace and joy of this experience . . . no one else seems to fully understand what it's like to really live there.

I wish they did.

I've journeyed a lot of places in my life, and I have always had friends who companioned with me in those places. They may not have experienced exactly what I was experiencing during those times, but they were with me. I felt it. I knew it to be true. And it was enough.

But in this place, for some reason, it isn't enough. For the first time, I find myself really longing for companions on this journey who know what that still-center-life is really like. I want to meet people who have asked God to teach them how to die and to become hidden and have experienced God's answer to that prayer.

I want companionship . . . but I have none. I've found a few companions through books written years ago by people no longer alive who experienced this, but that hasn't felt like enough in this place. I've wanted real, live human beings who know.

But God is only giving me himself, and he's asking for that to be enough right now. It's been tough to say yes and let that be enough, but I have, and God is and will continue to teach me much in this new place.