Alone into the Alone?

Each one of us has a deep, complex, emotional, intellectual, spiritual makeup. We can know one another, but only to a point. There is a sense in which all of us are alone. Tim Keller says that this is what it means to be human – “The movements and motions of your heart are so complex, so inward, and so hidden, that there is an irreducible, unavoidable solitude about human existence. No one will ever completely understand you.”

Proverbs 14:10 says it this way, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”

Consider your closest friends. I have a wonderful friendship with my older sister, Rebekah. We grew up together. We’ve read much of the same literature, we enjoy the same music, have a similar sense of humor, and we understand each other’s personalities. Our shared life experiences have given us some overlapping perspectives. We can reconnect after months of little or no communication (we live in different cities), and yet we always pick up where we left off. Friendship like this is truly a gift, and we should seek it out.

However, it won’t suffice. Even after connecting with others, even in the midst of great fellowship, the underlying sense of loneliness returns. In fact, none of my closest friendships can relieve me of this – and they weren’t meant to.

C.S Lewis, in grieving the death his wife, laments this aloneness even in marriage:

“It is incredible how much happiness, even how much gaiety, we sometimes had together after all hope was gone. How long, how tranquilly, how nourishingly, we talked together that last night! And yet, not quite together. There’s a limit to the ‘one flesh’. You can’t really share someone else’s weakness, or fear or pain. . . the mind can sympathize; the body, less. . . We both knew this. I had my miseries, not hers; she had hers, not mine. . .we were setting out on different roads. This cold truth . . .is just the beginning of the separation which is death itself. And this separation, I suppose, waits for all. . . She used to quote ‘Alone into the Alone’. . .Time and space and body were the very things that brought us together; the telephone wires by which we communicated. Cut one off, or cut both off simultaneously. Either way, mustn’t the conversation stop?”

And so it will go for each of us. All of our conversations, our experiences, our relations to one another, will end in this life- all the “telephone wires” cut, and some sooner than others.

A good friend of mine, reflecting on a season of depression in his life, said this: “I realized I was becoming a burden to all of my friends because I was looking to them to cure my loneliness, my struggles, my pain. I was looking to them to give me a kind of life that even the best of community could not give. And then it hit me, and this signaled the beginning of the end of my depression – I needed someone with an infinite capacity to listen to my problems, with an infinite love to work through them with me. The answer was before me the whole time – Jesus!”

God’s Word tells us that “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). We need community, and close friends we can share life with. We need to encourage, challenge, and confess to one another. But Christ is the ultimate companion. He is the great counselor. He went to the cross, and endured separation from God – true aloneness – so that we would not have to. Let your relationships with others be fueled by your relationship with Christ, and know that ultimately, Jesus is the only one who promises to walk with us alone into the alone, the only “wire” which won’t be cut, even to the end.

“I am with you always, to the end of the age” – Matthew 28:20.

See Tim Keller’s talk “The Wounded Spirit” for further reflection.

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About Sam Kruvand

I grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Mizzou in 2011 with a degree in History and Classics. Right now I'm raising support in St. Louis to go on staff with Veritas. God loves to restore and heal, and I try to reflect that truth in my writing. My favorite authors are C.S Lewis, G.K Chesterton, and Tim keller. I love hot coffee, old books, and most anything involving mountains!
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6 Responses to Alone into the Alone?

  1. Susan says:

    “Aloneness is not a curse to be avoided but a grace to be embraced. Aloneness is the goodness of an inner centering that faces the pain of differentness, sculpted and understood by God. And there is no greater grace than the blessing of acceptance in the face of one’s differentness and aloneness…the God who made the world with kaleidoscopic beauty affirms us at the core of who we are and says: “I know you, do not be afraid.” -Henri Nouwen

    Great post, Sam! It reminded me of this quote.

  2. One of my struggles here is that Christ isn’t sitting physically right next to me and audibly responding to what I say, so there doesn’t seem to be as much reality to that relationship as with my human companions. Not sure if a Christian should be saying that, not do I know how to help it.

  3. Sam Kruvand says:

    Struggle, indeed. I should say it is, in part, a struggle that we all share- you may be sure that in this way your are certainly NOT ALONE. I am reminded of the passage when Thomas, doubting, reaches his hand inside that of Christ. Jesus says to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. Yet how often have I wished I were in Thomas position? And again, Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek Him”. I share these verses as encouragement, though they are challenging as well. I often experience a bit of that loneliness even being in St. Louis, away from the Vtas and Crossing community. I’m trusting that you will actually be there whenever I come back, and that we will get to talk about this in person.

  4. Bethany Jones says:

    Great post Sam, emailed this out to a few people. Can’t wait to see you when you get back!

  5. Mmodesti says:

    Wish I could find that poem he quotes: Alone into the alone. Alas – no luck!

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