One of my early posts was about loneliness. I think that loneliness is sort of like pain. It is a warning that something is wrong. This social pain tells us that we don't have enough interaction with other people or that our interactions are not deep and fulfilling, as they should be. God said, "It is not good that man should be alone." So He made woman. Man and woman were created for several purposes, the highest being "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." To borrow the famous catechism. However, one purpose for man and woman was to procreate. God made us to be social creatures, and as social creatures, we need others to fulfill a need that we (especially introverts) neglect. (Extroverts, I suspect, have a tendency to leave relationships underdeveloped.) This need, social contact, is more than just the need to be around people, though it is impossible without that dimension. We need to be stimulated both emotionally and mentally. (This is for those of you who tend toward logic or are all "feels.") Emotionally, we need to be able to express our feelings to others, not just bottle it up or show one or two "good" feelings. We need to be able to develop our expression in a healthy way, and in order to do that we need to express ourselves to other people. Intellectually, we need to wrestle with our ideas and beliefs as well as with others. We need to be able to perform appendectomies on our wrong beliefs inflamed by passion. In order to do that, we need to know that we are wrong, which means someone has to contradict us, and we have to tease out the implications from their point of view.
This pain of loneliness tells us that we need a logical appendectomy or that we are bottling up our emotions or wrongly communicating with our fellow men and women. Often these things are caused by our search for love or for our place in life; this is especially true for adolescents. Paul writes to the Church in Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)" I want to point out that things that love is not are often things that we get wrong when we are alone, or when we get our relationships mixed up. They are the things that can make us lonely. In particular, love "does not seek its own." When we seek after love, we seek for our idea of love. We're usually wrong, which is probably why God chose to define what love isn't rather than to say what it is in 1 Corinthians. When we do get love right, we usually just find it, from what I've been able to tell. (Even if just finding it is on an online dating site, most people don't seem to expect what we they end up with.) We often love our family members who, outside of being in our family have nothing in common with us. I was blessed to love my family and have a lot in common with all of them, but there are times that I doubt that we are even from the same planet. Seeking for love is a selfish action. We want something to stop the pain of loneliness, like aspirin, but we don't expect to find that real love requires sacrifice. Real love hurts. Loneliness can also be a phantom pain that we get when we imagine situations where we could have done something different or where we might do something wrong. We imagine who could hurt us and how, so fear of being with people builds up in our hearts. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." Punishment is pain inflicted by another; sacrifice is a personal choice to endure pain. Perfect love casts out fear because we have already endured pain, so the pain inflicted by another is nothing new. Love "bears all things" and "endures all things." The lover has acclimated himself or herself to pain, so they shrug off the pain others cause. Patience is an important part of love.
I've noticed that very few relationships, romantic or otherwise, have equal input from both parties. That doesn't stop me from trying to develop relationships with others. On the contrary, I try harder when I see a relationship that I want to succeed begin to fail. Sometimes I fail, but I always hope for grace. Love "does not take into account a wrong suffered," "believes all things," and "hopes all things." On that note, I want to echo Paul's sentiment in Romans 1:11-13 "I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles." There are a lot of people that I've always intended to keep in touch with, and failed to do so. I'm sorry for that. Can I get a second chance?
P.S. Love tends to seek others' good before the lover's own good. Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." I hope I'm not being a hypocrite, but it's always hard to be honest about actions and intentions without conflagrating them. I intend to try to love those who are around me, but I am a selfish human, so I will forget. I ask you to gently remind me to love when I am not. I will try my best to do the same for you.
-Written from my dining room at home.