He entered my house with a woebegone expression.
“Have you had a rough week?” I asked the young teen.
“Not really,” he answered. “I just went out with my friends to watch a movie.”
“So, why the sad face?”
“Mrs. Sheila, everyone else is starting to get in couples, you know? It’s not that I really want to be in a relationship, but it sure would have been nice to have someone to share the popcorn with.”
We've all been there, haven't we?
None of us like the feeling of being the one that is all alone.
The one without the other half of the couple.
The one sitting alone at lunch.
The one that wasn't invited to the party.
The one with no-one to share the popcorn with.
I’ve been that lonely girl before, too. Strangely enough, the main time I remember feeling loneliness as a teen wasn’t on the mission compound in the rural bush country of Zimbabwe where very few other teens lived. Instead, it was in my eighth grade year when I attended a public school in the U.S. I can still remember the night I broke down in tears begging my Mom for us to return to Africa.
I kept trying to fit in, but it was like everyone else understood the rules for a game I didn’t know. I remember being thrilled with my pretty purple sundress for Easter. When the other teens asked where I bought it and I said KMart, I could see the contempt on their faces, but I didn’t understand why.
Even though I was surrounded by other teens in my youth group and my school, I was lonely because I missed the feeling of belonging. I missed walking down the dirt roads of Sanyati Mission station, my legs colored grey with the fine dust. I missed the little children calling out my name and running up to hug me. I missed the smell of dusk, when smoke was rising from many cookfires as the evening meal was being prepared. I missed sitting on the hard pews at church, surrounded by the Shona music that pulsated and surrounded and harmonized and touched the deepest places of my soul.
Though I understood the English language in the states, I still felt oddly out of place. The language of pep rallies, football games, T.V. shows and the latest fashions was foreign to me. I felt disconnected in a place where I looked like I belonged, whereas in Sanyati my white face looked like it didn’t belong, but I felt l did. I remember the delight that filled my heart the day I was shucking corn and Pastor Muchechetere told me I might be white on the outside, but I was black on the inside. It was the highest compliment to me.
I have also ached for my own children during the times when they have been lonely. I remember when little Kevin tried so hard to fit in with his peers. He came from such a different background that he, like me, didn’t seem to understand the game. One day when he was about ten, he came in from church and told me it wasn’t fair.
“What isn’t fair?” I asked.
“When Scott says something, all the other kids laugh. But, when I say something they don’t. Even if I say the very same thing.”
It’s tough when our hearts long for connection, but we feel isolated instead.
We all desire to be fully known, and yet fully loved.
I remember when Kevin first came to live with us. His heart was love-starved. He absolutely delighted in being the center of attention of our world. We tried to pour love into his heart as often as we could.
He fully enjoyed tickle-fights, playing games, and hearing us speak words of love and value to him. We loved to play a game as we described our love to him.
“I love you more than all the raindrops coming down in this storm.” we would say. Or,
“I love you more than all the cars on the highway.”
One day Kevin was at his grandmother’s house and he was talking to us on the phone.
Kevin: I love you more than all the squares on the door. Me: What squares on the door? Kev: You know... Me; Can you tell me more? Kev: I'm standing at Bobbie's door and it has tiny little squares on it...you know, lots and lots of them, each one so little, I'm looking right through them at the yard...you know, like our door... Me: Oh, a screen door? Kevin: yes
I'll never know how many times I have remembered that over the years as I've looked at a screen door or window. That's a lot of love!
Kevin wanted love. He wanted approval. He wanted to know he mattered.
I feel the same way and I know you do, too. We were created for connection.
Kevin's nephew, David, spoke at Kevin's funeral. Here are some of the words that David shared that have continued to stay with me:
"I believe that Kevin was a man that was hurt at heart and that desperately desired love, but I don't think he really understood how much he was loved. There's people in the world that are hurting, they need our love, our forgiveness and our compassion. The Bible says to build one another up to edification, let people know they're important, that they're needed. That they are loved and have purpose. Is our job to be the hands and the feet of the gospel of Christ."
It's been five months since Kevin has been gone. His tragic early ending of his life has taken away our opportunity to continue to let him know how very much he was loved.
But, I want to take every opportunity I can to let others know how very deeply they are loved. It seems we live in a very hateful world. A world of political outrage. A world of social media bullying. A world connected by social media, yet lonelier than ever before.
I want you to know that you are seen. You are chosen. The Maker of the world, the very One who Created you knows you best and loves you most.
He has made a way for you to live in His love, in true connection with Him through the life and death and resurrection of His Son. I pray that you will know this gospel--this good news--that you can be fully known and fully loved. There is nothing you have done that will make your Heavenly Father look away from you in disgust. He hates sin, but he loves you and He has made a way to forgive all of your sin. By His Son's death, every wound in us can be healed. He has made a way for us to experience the deepest love and deepest connection.
I pray that if you know Him, you will share this good news with someone today.
I pray if you don't yet know the love of the Creator, that you will begin to seek Him. He is waiting for you. And, He loves you more than all the squares on all the screen windows and doors around the globe.