Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adventures in Loneliness

You've got to be kidding? Loneliness an adventure? If you’re willing to consider the ridiculous, hear me out. You get the sense that God knows it’s not good for man to be alone, yet loneliness is one powerful tool He uses to grace our lives. I’m not a fan of loneliness, and I don’t sing its praises—especially its darker and more foreboding moments. However, there’s a perspective on loneliness that has helped me of late.

The missionary Jim Elliot saw a parallel between the difficult work of the gospel he faced and the search for gold in the Yukon a hundred years earlier. In his journal he recorded a poem by Robert Service called "The Law of the Yukon."

"Send not your foolish and feeble; send me your strong and your sane,
Strong for the red-rage of battle, sane for I harry them sore.
Send me men girt for the combat, men who are grit to the core...
And I wait for the men who will win me - and I will not be won in a day,
And I will not be won by weaklings, subtle and suave and mild,
But by men with the hearts of Vikings and the simple faith of a child,
Desperate, strong, and resistless, unthrottled by fear and defeat,
Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I glut with my meat."

The Yukon gold searchers knew the gold was hidden in "them thar hills." They knew that finding it would take more than mere curiosity, it would take men of amazing wills and strong hearts. So it is with the gold hidden in loneliness. Some are lonely in a crowd, lonely in a marriage with a partner softly snoring next to them, and some are lonely even as the world seems to spin in orbit around their bright personality. Loneliness is not just a problem for the single in life, it is a part of the whole human condition. Face it, we have been fighting loneliness ever since the Fall.

How we face it is the more important issue. We can either fold in defeat under its boarish crushing or we can see it as an opportunity to do deep and difficult work, all the while trusting that God hides his most valuable gold deep in the fields of hardship. Elizabeth Elliot said that loneliness is having what you don't want or wanting what you don't have. We cry, "God if you loved me you would fix this!" No, that is precisely why He refuses to fix this. He wants us to purchase the field of our loneliness with our trusting tears, for in it hides the secret treasure of gold. Those who find it will one day see it tested by the fire of God's own holiness and will glory in its resplendent beauty. They will see their reflection in it and be glad they did not quit trusting the faithfulness of God too soon.

It’s worth the price of loneliness to purchase this field. Lean into the plow, embrace the reins, and tell your weary, doubting mind to be silent before your God in the battle of loneliness. If I know Christ as an intimate friend rather than a religious icon, how can I declare that I am ever alone? He is my ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). How can I be so faithless as to fold under the pressure of my want or pain? The pain of wanting another's arms to surround or a smile to brighten my weary life is great. The hope of another companion is too powerful and terrifying to consider beyond a passing thought. In this present I have Him. He is faithful and true, and I feel the pain of loneliness lighten when I see the adventure my God designs even in this. He never leads us to uncharted places without a grander design. We are His Yukon explorers paving a way of hope for others who will inevitably and surely follow.

I want to be for Him one of those men with a heart like a Viking and faith like a child. Desperate, strong and learning even from my defeat. I want to bring him gifts of gold to lay at his nail-pierced feet. What a Savior! What a worthy awesome Savior! Worthy of my suffering faith and helpless heart forced to bend at his feet and shout to Him, Glory and Praise!

The Adventure Continues!
Ed Litton

1 comment:

laureen said...

As a young widow, I have climbed this mountain we call loneliness, and it is a steep one to climb alone. The result of the climb of the faithful; of those of us who "lean into the plow" and KNOW that we do not climb alone, is that the God we serve, this Jesus we follow DOES become more than an icon, He becomes our All in All...Our very best friend!

Press on into Him--He will allow you to "dance" again!