I find myself thinking about the word “alone” quite often these days. This morning I suddenly found myself thinking of the words from the creation story that “it is not good for a man (woman) to be alone…” Over the course of the last 20 years of my marriage I led dozens and dozens marriage enrichment seminars and spoke on the subject of marriage in various settings. Invariably I began my sessions in the first two chapters of Genesis to set the foundation for marriage around the intentions of God as found in creation.
However, when I spoke about the word “alone”, I did so without ever having experienced “aloneness” in the sense of one who was living “alone”. I grew up in a nuclear family surrounded by loving parents and siblings and with extended family in the same small community where we lived. After graduation from high school I went to college and always had a roommate during those years of dormitory living. The summer after graduation Jan and I were married and the next 47 years were spent with her in my life.
Now I am approaching the seven month mark of life as a widower. I am still surrounded by a wonderful family with great children and awesome grandchildren. I can be part of their lives as much as I want without restriction. I have dozens of friends who keep me as part of their lives and my church family is so warm and caring. Yet…I now understand “alone” in a whole new light.
• I am alone when I wake up in the morning…I cannot roll over and wrap my arms around my life partner before getting out of bed.
• My kitchen table is no longer a very inviting place because the seat next to me is empty and I am alone.
• I no longer have someone’s hand to hold or a person to embrace as my connection to a significant other has been severed.
• I ride alone in the car with the radio or a CD or a book on tape as my companionship.
• I am alone in a house that used to be filled with the presence of another.
There were times during those years of marriage when “aloneness” was something to be treasured; a very important time in the busy-ness of life. Alone with one’s thoughts…alone with a book…alone to think and plan. But that was productive aloneness…necessary aloneness…chosen aloneness…planned aloneness…temporary aloneness.
I thought this morning of a recent widow in my church in California who said one day that “I know that God is always with me and I am never alone…but…God can’t hold me in His arms like my husband used to…yes I believe that God has me in the palm of His hand, but that is different from having the fingers of my hand enlaced through the fingers of my husband when going for a walk. Even though I know that I am never alone because God is always with me…I am still alone and I now have a new appreciation for the words in Genesis 2 that it is not good to be alone”.
Aloneness is a very difficult state of being for me. I thought good progress was being made until Easter, the sixth month anniversary of Jan’s death and then Mother’s Day came like a 1-2-3 punch in rapid succession that laid me out like a punch drunk boxer. I have been staggering, but thank goodness, I am still standing. My vision is clearing and the cobwebs are disappearing. I’m not about to embrace “aloneness” and say “this is very good”; but I know there must be a way to balance “aloneness” with the “family” and “community” and “friendships” that surround my life so that when I combine all those elements together I will be able to say that “this is in fact very good…I can make this work”. There is a voice that constantly whispers in my ear and says “you are not alone…you do not walk alone”. I do indeed hear His Voice and I know those words are true.