& some thoughts on loneliness + contentment
The monsoons finally started last week! Nothing like summer rain to lift my mood and cool off my days.
The other night I asked my brother to take me to a spot he knew of where there is a great view of Tucson’s city lights. We got to watch the sky change colors after sunset and see a storm roll in over town.
Tucson is nestled just south of the Catalina mountains, so when you drive north enough you start to go up in elevation as you enter the foothills. From here you have a great view of the city in the valley below. This particular spot is at the top of Campbell Ave, which ends at a trailhead going up into the mountains.
With the storm clouds building up to the southeast and the sunset to the west, there was a crazy pink light cast everywhere after the sun went down.
Sunsets, storms, and city lights – some of my favorite things about summer in the desert.
The idea of loneliness has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s something I’ve been feeling in this current season of life, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. My hope in sharing is to encourage anyone who might be struggling to find contentment in the midst of a lonely season.
I’ve spent most of my life praying for true friends. The kind you can tell everything to, trust completely, be spontaneous with, and feel totally yourself around. And though I’ve had a few friends like this, they have been few and far between.
I’m not angry about it. In the past I’ve felt sad, but I never blamed God for not giving me the kind of friends I long for. I’m sure I play a big part in it. I have walls up from past hurts and can be skeptical of people at first. But I don’t think it’s all my fault, or anyone else’s fault. Sometimes things just play out that way.
My circumstances have fallen into place in a way that hasn’t made it easy for me to make friends.
Growing up I didn’t go to just one church, so I never had a solid church community. For middle and high school I went to a tiny private school. There were only so many cliques and I just didn’t quite fit in with any of them. I spent a lot of those years feeling lonely.
For college I went to a giant university, but I lived at home 30 minutes from campus so plugging into community there wasn’t easy. But that’s not for lack of trying. By that time I started to understand the importance of making an effort to pursue friendships, so I did my best.
I attended multiple Christian groups on campus, but since I didn’t live nearby I always felt like an outsider. Nothing ever quite clicked. It almost felt like it was just too late for me to make friends – everyone already had their besties and despite my efforts I just couldn’t break into that territory with anyone.
It was exhausting trying to build new relationships. I always felt awkward, wondering if that person even liked me after we got coffee together. I was drained and defeated after reaching out to so many people. So I eventually gave up.
Then I began to pray more about it. I asked God to bring the right friends into my life at the right time. Until then I could be content with waiting.
It wasn’t long after that when my prayer was answered.
Soon after I finished college, I was randomly invited into a new group of girls that was going to meet regularly, and everything clicked so perfectly.
We all became super close super fast. A lot of the girls already knew each other, but as the brand new person I never felt like an outsider. Our weekly meetings were the highlight of all our weeks. I felt so full after our times together and excited to live the next week knowing I had a support system around me.
I cried of happiness and thankfulness to God for finally answering my prayer.
But nothing lasts forever.
Somewhere along the way there was a fallout. A silly disagreement that caused everything to shatter.
Humans are humans, so I’m learning that there will always be dysfunction in any relationship. Especially in a group — with so many people, it’s hard to predict who is going to forgive and forget and who is going to hold onto bitterness and hurt.
People chose sides. There was avoiding, then there was confrontation, there was hurt, there were tears.
I didn’t understand why suddenly this group was crumbling around me. I could see all sides of the rift, but somehow the sides misunderstood each other. Each person was waiting for an apology from someone else, but no one was quick to extend forgiveness. In the end it seemed like some people were more content with losing a friendship than fixing the problem.
I didn’t want to let go. I felt stuck in the middle, not belonging to any one side. But half of the group didn’t even want to see the other half any more, so there was no way we were all meeting together again.
My heart was completely broken.
I didn’t want to lose these friendships. I reached out and met one-on-one with people. But something was different. Things felt awkward, sometimes even forced.
So in my sad emptiness I finally gave up my efforts. When I stopped reaching out, it seemed like nobody noticed. I felt abandoned.
I was bitter and broken. For awhile I was even upset with God, wondering why He ever brought these friends into my life in the first place. I had no idea I would be more empty after the fallout, feeling completely forgotten, than I did before I knew any of those friends.
It’s been over a year since then. A lonely year, without God refilling the hole of friendship I still long for. But God gives and He takes away, because He’s God. And although some of the hurt still lingers, I’ve learned so much in hindsight.
I know God allowed that season for a purpose. At the time I was in a place where I desperately needed to be vulnerable and have accountability. God was so faithful to provide that for me. And since then He’s taught me about contentment, and about giving people grace.
I’ve learned that I’m okay on my own. It can be quiet at times, but God is always there and He is the best friend I could ever want. I’ve learned to lean on Him so much more, and I don’t always need a bunch of friends around me to fully enjoy life.
Over time the friendships have slowly been rebuilt. And although we don’t all meet together any more, we still love each other and I’m thankful that God heals things in His timing.
I’ve realized that rejection is often not so much about me as it is about the person I feel rejected by. That’s where grace comes in. I’m learning not to take things so personally, and to believe the best about people. It could be that they are struggling in other areas that I don’t know about.
Most importantly, I’m learning that to make true friends, you have to be one. And that’s something God is teaching me to do better every day.