My young daughter and I had a rare opportunity to go out to dinner together after a late doctor’s appointment. I was so grateful for the opportunity, as she was able to share how she felt about middle school. While she seems to have adjusted quite well, she experiences bouts of rejection and loneliness, especially during PE where she feels her athletic ability falls short. She shared with me how the “cool” kids classify others, and in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, reject other students with their looks, comments, and exclusion. My heart went out to her. I remember those awkward days, and so I tried to encourage her with stories of my own. She lit up as she recounted a story of St. Therese of Lisieux, whose close friend left town, and years later upon her return, acted as though she had never known Therese at all. We spent some time trying to figure out why God might be allowing the situation, and how He could be drawing her closer to Himself. We left our dinner feeling a bit closer to one another, as well as to our Savior, Who can allow such loneliness to bring us closer to Him.
That same week, my son seemed unusually quiet and moody. I prompted him to share with me what might be bothering him, and he, too, was struggling at school. He had found himself in the midst of some conflicts and was feeling a bit rejected. My motherly instinct was to turn into a mama bear and have a word, if you will, with these peers of his. But, (thank you, God) because of this spirituality, I was able to walk him through the difference between God’s will and God allowing an event in order to draw out some greater good. I encouraged him to look at the event as God trying to tell him something, and that, perhaps, this really had nothing to do with the goings-on at middle school. Perhaps God is knocking more loudly at the door of his heart? Perhaps without the conflict, my son could feel confident and secure and see no need for a Savior?
Which leads to my week. I found myself feeling lonely. Sure, I have some acquaintances, some fellow moms to chat with during the drop off at school. But all around me, people were making plans and playdates and I just felt left out. I later took my kids to the park, and all around me were groups of kids and their mothers celebrating the start of the long weekend. Still later, when our family was at a gathering, faith sharing with a group of fellow church families, the discussion felt shallow. We have been in this “new” city for close to three years now, and I still miss my old friends dearly. I find myself struggling to make decent conversation. I even had the occasion to meet with close family friends for a BBQ, only to experience what felt like forced conversation when we used to share more laughter and openness. I turned to my husband later that evening and thanked him, truly, for being my friend!
Last week I had a chance to meet with my spiritual director and I was able to share that even with God I feel lukewarm. It was my turn to write the blog post for over two weeks, and I couldn’t even connect with people behind a screen! Fortunately I was encouraged to see this as a pruning of sorts. I was encouraged to trust God’s mysterious ways with faith and simplicity. I was encouraged to go to the Word of God and our Mother more quickly and consistently. Who knew that the advice I gave to my children was the very same words of encouragement I’d need to hear myself? God and His sense of humor….
So, I leave you and me with these promising words about loneliness…
No one, however, experienced so strongly the depths of poverty or understood it as well as Mary. Therefore, we can always ask her to accept loneliness in us. Otherwise, we will either always fearfully run away from this grace, or we will suffer a painful defeat by summoning up our own strength to make attempts to control loneliness….
…After Pentecost, in silence and solitude, Mary accompanied the birth of the Church as its Mother. Because Mary is the Mother of the Church, it is so important for us to be open to her action in us. It is crucial that we hand ourselves over to her and to everything that God wants to accomplish in our souls through her. On our own, we will not accept the grace of loneliness. We will either fear it, or we will try to take control of it. Such a response only ends in defeat. (S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005], 186, 187).