So I’ve been feeling… alone …
I know, it’s true, I have *The Best* support group. My whole church family has enthusiastically reiterated their emotional and prayerful support for me while I’m overseas. My new, beautiful family in Kabinburi checks in on me weekly via Facebook messenger and Skype. They are seriously dedicated to loving and caring for me like one of their own. I am newly involved in a wonderful local church, I have blossoming friendships with my classmates, and I am almost daily volunteering with surrounding ministries.
But last Thursday when I freaked out about a budgeting issue [don’t worry, it’s resolved, and really wasn’t worth freaking out about], I realized that I had no one to wrap their arm around me or to hash out the problem with me as I described my frustration in rapid English. I just kept coming back to the idea: “I’m alone.”
On the heels of my understanding that “I am alone,” I also realized that God was the only One present to listen to me complain and to fully understand me. He was the closest person in that moment and He always will be. His most precious promise to me is that He will stay faithful to me forever (Hebrews 13:5). I won’t always have someone to wrap their arm around me or share my pain. But God, He sees my heart. He knows all of my thoughts, even before I am able to put them in words (Psalm 139). He knows me better than any outside influence can know me, even better than I know myself.
All of those Biblical promises are true, and comforting, however, I still felt sad that everything is so new here. Also, reasonably so, it takes time to build relationships with people, and I’ve been in Thailand for exactly one month now. I was thinking back to the friendships that I had last year — friends that I could certainly lean on. I was put out that I don’t have those same close friendships here.
And then right in the middle of those thoughts, God put a new perspective in my line of thinking. He brought to my attention how amazing it is that He has divinely purposed to put new people in my life. What a privilege to cross paths with such beautiful people, like my classmates, fellow volunteers and life-committed sent-ones. I have the wonderful opportunity to effectually know other individuals — to love them, to serve with them, to pray for them, and just to experience life together! The most glorious adventure in life is to know and be known. Thank you God! [And honestly, this shift of focus was completely God, because I was just embracing the loneliness. I never asked God to make me thankful]
So on Sunday, after church, I went to eat lunch at the mall. [On a side note, I found a rice, noodle, and egg omelet dish that tastes amazing and only costs $1.38 :D] The mall is absurdly packed on Sunday, so I walked around the whole food court scanning the crowd for a place to sit. I noticed so many individuals sitting alone at tables that seated four people. [Isn’t it interesting that when you feel alone, you’re more in tune to others who may be feeling likewise. Maybe that’s one purpose of loneliness?] It’s moments like that when I wish that people were more open and friendly. I was thinking how nice it would be if someone were to invite me to sit with them at their table. It would be enjoyable to hear the adventure story of a traveling stranger. However, the people who sat by themselves generally had their attention fully focused on their phones. I finally found a seat at a long table toward the back.
I sat down to eat, and decisively tucked away my phone and earbuds in my backpack. Usually I pull up Facebook or Instagram but this time I just decided to enjoy the business of the food court and to people watch. A few people came and went at the lunch table where I sat. One Thai lady made her way to the table and I assumed that she asked the Thai woman on my right if there was available seating. I was annoyed with myself that I could not speak the language well enough to know exactly what she asked, or to answer her in Thai. She started a conversation with the Thai family on my left and I just focused on my food. After about 10 minutes I heard someone say, “so are you vacationing in Bangkok?” I looked up and realized that the lady who I presumed to be Thai was speaking to me. I was so excited and grateful that she had initiated a conversation! We talked for a little bit; she was a world traveler and had even lived for a few years pursuing her Master’s degree in California. Before I left, she mentioned how God had told her to come to this mall instead of going straight home. [Maybe, that was for my sake?]
I walked out the exit and..of course.. it was raining. [I’m practicing keeping my mouth shut instead of complaining about the rain. Eventually I will work toward being thankful. Baby steps.] I was just about to put my earbuds in, because stormy nights and music go hand-in-hand. But I decided just to listen to the sound of the city, instead. And good thing I did! I was passing this couple and I barely heard the man say “hey we saw you in earlier today, blessings to you!” I turned back to them, again very eager to talk to some friendly faces. We talked in short about why we were in Thailand and about the duration of our stay. He and his wife perfectly understand my purpose here, so he asked me: “how are you? Sunday can be the loneliest day of the week.” [How relatable is that remark?] I couldn’t really hold back, he had pin-pointed the issue most pressing on my heart. We talked about everything over a cup of coffee — our endeavors in Asia, our families, past jobs, what we are currently learning. Finally, we took the Skytrain over to an Italian restaurant where we talked for a couple more hours. I shared my concerns over whether I could truly make a difference in Thailand, my fear of trusting God, and the feelings of loneliness that I was presently dealing with. I can’t sum up all the restorative words they spoke to me, but I am confident that they are leaving a legacy.
Some advice I’ve held onto as I wrestle with my feelings, is to relax because God is in control and to just enjoy being a loved child of God. Last Thursday when I was crying over the budgeting issue, God heard me and answered me. Honestly, mine was the only voice in my head that was condemning my tears as weakness, and my feelings of loneliness as spiritual immaturity. God never said that! In that moment He graciously reminded me of His nearness and He continues to set His love upon me throughout the week. The people I met at the mall were just a couple of examples of how God was eager to meet me in my state of loneliness and just embrace me in His love. I recently listened to a sermon on loneliness [http://www.redeemerkansascity.org/sermons/midtown/] and learned that this God-given emotion is not something to ignore or to anxiously strive to eradicate. Loneliness pushes us to pursue knowing others and being known, and it begs us to experience God’s nearness. The Holy Spirit brought to memory comforting Bible verses early on when I recognized that I felt alone. However, I’m human, so I need a lot of reminders, and God is patient and compassionate, so He offers me continual reminders of His love. The resolve is not apathy towards all feelings that cause me discomfort, rather it is that God is intensely committed to sticking by my side to show Himself strong and helpful to me throughout every season of life!