by Lexiann Grant
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress.”
“Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck. I have come into deep waters,
and the torrent washes over me.”
“…water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost’.”
Ps 25:16-17, Ps 69:1,3, Lamentations 3:54 NRSV
A single friend who values his solitude, wrote me a few days ago, stating, “Why am I a bit lonely and lost…?”.
Who among us is not these days?
The primary cause I believe is the interminable, ceaselessly-pounding knock-you-over-waves of the pandemic – waves metaphorically as never-ending as reading the bleak and exhausting novels War and Peace, Les Misérables, and Atlas Shrugged, then starting over again when you reach the end…but it’s not.
Even when our lonely and lost condition is not the direct result of pandemic, it exacerbates or extends every problem we face.
Personally, I’ve tried applying a version of some of the 12 Steps of addiction recovery programs for coping:
*Admit that I am powerless over the pandemic;
*Believe that God can keep me sane and healthy if I do my part;
*Decide to turn my day and health and the state of the world over to the care of God;
*Frequently touch base with family and friends to see how they are, to let them know they are in my thoughts;
*Seek through prayer to ask for help for those in need, and, through scripture, for guidance;
*Continue to take inventory of hand sanitizer, masks, disinfectant spray, and restock as necessary, also give these items as gifts;
*Continue to distance and disinfect;
*Try to share a message of hope and fortitude, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for me and the ability to carry that out.
Despite these steps, when I drive by businesses and see the dark windows of those that failed, or, the multiple caution signs on the doors of those still open, I experience a brief moment of terror. My breath skips and overwhelming reality floods in, setting me, and each of us, apart from one another, life and recognizable guideposts.
When I’m in the forest connected to earth and it’s Creator is the only time I forget the pandemic…until I see another human who is wearing their mask like a chin diaper or neck gator. Instead of being glad for human contact (albeit distant), I am immediately incensed. The desire to confront them with my pocket-sized can of disinfectant spray is almost uncontrollable.
Instead, I grind my teeth, mutter and move away…far away. Then outrage cedes to fear that I’ve been exposed. Every sniffle, cough or being overly warm escalates to the potential end of the world.
One friend commented that she had become like a feral cat, staying in hiding, watching life from a distance, lonesome but wanting no contact in order to feel safe. And the friend who emailed that he was lonely and lost, noted that he had to stand alone on a mountain ridge to connect through his device to the world.
Our pandemic lives are a dichotomy.
We miss social contact, physical presence. We miss distant relatives whom we cannot visit, friends we cannot hug, and sharing a taste of someone else’s craft beer or dessert! Yet mandated health practices keep us apart while anger and fear separate us further into loneness.
We stumble between extremes navigating pandemic, praying for a return to normal but fearing what will come. This is a bewildering era where everything has changed, norms are out the window and etiquette is uncertain.
A character on a television drama I saw said she was afraid of returning to normal – afraid of restaurants, shopping, gathering in public and of touching people again. People are either kind or rude, no in between; we experience little or no balance, bouncing daily, even hourly, between dread and hope.
No wonder we feel lost. There’s no GPS for this.
Last year, early in shut down, I was in the grocery store where shoppers were hopping like crazed fleas from the canned goods aisle back to the toilet paper then over to the sanitizer then back to dry goods. At the checkout the cashier calmly commented to me that she was not worried, that everything was in God’s hands. Yes I replied, He is still in charge whatever happens.
We have faith, we believe, we pray, we trust, we move forward one new day at a time under God’s Protective Supervision (GPS lol). By the grace of God we can choose daily to avoid dark, depressing pastimes or dwell in gloomy ruminations, and instead focus on that which lightens our or someone else’s loads, fills our hearts with gladness, lifts our souls and turns our minds back towards our calling to a spiritual life.
Reach out if you haven’t, keep on connecting if you already do. Phone, email, message, video, share thoughts, feelings, struggles, and hopeful plans. Someone is there who wants – and may need — to listen; God most certainly is present.
If you could know the empty ache of loneliness,
Masked well behind the calm indifferent face
Of us who pass you by in studied hurriedness,
Intent upon our way, lest in the little space
Of one forgetful moment hungry eyes implore,
You to be kind, to open up your heart a little more,
I’m sure you’d smile a little kindlier, sometimes,
To those of us you’ve never seen before.
— — from “If You Knew” by Ruth Muskrat Bronson in the public domain
Each of us are in the same but separate boats on this vast, uncharted ocean. But most of us will endure, changed probably, for the better perhaps, and we’ll have the chance to experience solid direction in new choices, new prayers, new friends, new spiritual lives, together in community again.
Like I told my friend, hang in there: perfect love casts out fear, and, being kind removes anger.
God guide us, God bring us together again in hope.
“I called on your name, O Lord; You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear’!”
“ ‘I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured’,”
Lamentations 3:55a, 57, Ezekiel 34:16a
A note to readers:
I had not read Rosalind Hughes’ March 2nd article yet, “On Being Lost,” when I received my friend’s email March 3rd which inspired me to write this piece. Also a nod to Leslie Scoopmire regarding her March 4th article “Numbers and Nothingness” which includes some similar content.
Seems a few of us together, in the same time period, were guided to write about this topic.
Hhmmm…maybe we’re not so alone or lost after all?!
Lexiann Grant is a retired writer & author, a former chalicer and layreader, but still an Episcopalian who enjoys encountering God in the mountain backcountry.