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By Ryan Klinck

Have you ever been afraid of being alone?
You are not alone…

This past summer, I left my beloved community at the Bonhoeffer House to move to Wichita, Kansas. As I said goodbye to my friends and family to go to a new place, I noticed a recurring question rising up within me, “Will I be able to make any friends in this new place?” After years of having a strong community around me, I was afraid that I would be alone and lonely…Why is it that we are afraid of being alone?

Do you ever feel lonely?
You are not alone…

During my time in Wichita, as I feared, I have felt lonely in certain moments. But, I learned through my work with Neighboring Movement that we all feel lonely at some point. Loneliness is a universal human experience that functions as a survival mechanism, built within us, to warn us that we are being threatened by isolation.* “People are social animals” says Kassandra Alcaraz, strategic director for Health equity research at the American Cancer Society. “We were not meant to be isolated, so the benefits we get from relationships with others and being part of a community are not surprising...social relationships are important to general health and well-being.”**

Do you ever feel unwell when you are alone?
You are not alone…

Loneliness and social isolation affect our health in drastic ways. Current research “indicates that individuals lacking social connection (both objective and subjective social isolation) are at risk for premature mortality.”*** For perspective, some researchers believe that loneliness and isolation are more dangerous than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.**** It makes sense then why we do not feel well when we are alone for too long. When we lack those social connections and community to support us, it is not good for us. Unfortunately, more and more people are choosing to live on their own in wealthy countries, and researchers are afraid loneliness and isolation will reach epidemic proportions unless we take action.*****

So, am I alone?
You are not alone… Re-member...

Henri Nouwen reminds us that “fear is the great enemy of intimacy...”****** When we let fear drive our relationships, we drive those whom we love away and we encounter the world through disconnectedness. God’s story is one where we confront the illusion that we are disconnected and re-member that we are always connected.

When Jacob was left alone...we re-member that God wrestled with him until daybreak.

When Christ’s disciples abandoned him... we re-member the women who journeyed with him to his death.

When many languages separated the early church on Pentacost... we re-member that the Spirit came and broke down their language barriers.

When the early monks went into the wilderness to live alone... we re-member how God met them there and helped them face their greatest fears.

Today, whenever we walk through the darkest valleys of our lives... we re-member that God is with us, and we look for God’s rod and staff for comfort.

May we re-member that even when we feel we are alone or when we are literally alone, we are never truly alone… God’s love, intimacy’s true friend, is always there to connect our story to the great story of all creation.*******

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4225959/#b16
**https://www.cbsnews.com/news/loneliness-may-sabotage-breast-cancer-survival-study-finds/
***https://www.ahsw.org.uk/userfiles/Research/Perspectives%20on%20Psychological%20Science-2015-Holt-Lunstad-227-37.pdf
****https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20180504/loneliness-rivals-obesity-smoking-as-health-risk
*****https://www.ahsw.org.uk/userfiles/Research/Perspectives%20on%20Psychological%20Science-2015-Holt-Lunstad-227-37.pdf
******Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective, page 18
*******Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective, page 23

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