Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spritual Aloneness

Here's an honest and personally moving post on spiritual aloneness (or loneliness) with which I can sympathize.

I wonder how many pew-sitters feel that they have deep union with the people with whom they are in communion? Why do I get funny looks when my "prayer request" at church is to give thanks for the large turn-out at the March for Life? I've opened myself to my pastor about my spiritual struggles. Once. We don't talk about it anymore. Is this a common feeling, or is it peculiar to people who think too much about "non-fundamentals"?

It's been hard enough to even have spiritual unity with my wife, so perhaps it's an irrationally high aspiration to share spiritual unity of thought with more than one or two other folks at church.

9 comments:

Kim said...

I've watched Michael struggle with his alone-ness for the last few years. His cynicism about the state of Protestant Christianity is palpable. I've often wondered why he continually opens himself up to pain by being so open and honest online. It's, in some ways, the worst place to open your heart up.

Where he is is where I've been for the last year. Finding kindred spirits has been a challenge, but I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, I think. What attracts me to Catholicism is that there is generally an agreement to accept the church's doctrine, to submit to its authority, rather than everyone being his own authority, as is the case to a certain degree in Evangelicalism/Protestantism. I want to settle on some of the big issues and get on with serving God. I'm feeling like I can see the ground below me coming closer and closer and I yearn for a place to land. Once I land, I think other things will fall into place. I do cherish the friendships I have, online and offline, but to find a totally understanding person is a rare thing. We too often feel the need to run with the pack. To separate from the pack is a difficult thing. But sometimes it's for a specific purpose. I feel it is so for Michael. Maybe he's kicking at the goads. Are we?

Tertium Quid said...

I was in spiritual no-man's land for about two years. It was difficult, and I pray for anyone in it.

Allen Tate wrote Donald Davidson in 1929 to tell him he was considering becoming a Catholic. Davidson wrote him back and told me he was crazy. Tate converted to Catholicism in 1948. Davidson's daughter converted before he died. Tate holds the modern record, at least among Vanderbilt grads, for length of time in no-man's land.

Devin Rose said...

Howdy Tom,

My wife and I have talked about the challenge of finding kindred spirits with whom we can deeply connect on matters of importance to our faith (or to our lives in general).

I think that, no matter what ecclesial community you are a member of nor even which particular parish/group/meeting within that community you attend, it is difficult and rare to find more than a few such kindred spirits.

If I may conjecture as to why this is, I think that there are two difficult requirements that must be met:

1. Compatibility on the human level
2. Compatibility on a spiritual level

The first requirement is necessary to even become friends; you may share the same beliefs even to the letter as someone else, yet if your personalities do not mesh, forget about finding a kindred spirit in them.

Most often I think this human incompatibility happens when you and the other person are at different places in human formation, and there is an imbalance of maturity, leading to difficulty to have a good friendship where there is mutual give and receive.

And then, even if you do find the person who satisfies the first requirement, you then must be compatible on a spiritual level, including beliefs, personal spiritual challenges, etc.

When I look back on my truest friendships, I can hardly even remember when I first met those friends and how we became great friends: It almost happened organically, slowly, without me even noticing the growth.

It makes me realize how God moved and brought me together with them and how He nurtured the friendships, turning them into something beautiful, with me mostly oblivious.

I hope that you find the deep kinship that you are seeking, a true community of persons with those friends that God has chosen for you and an ever deeper communio personarum with your wife.

Gil Garza said...

Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote about her feeling of intense loneliness and deep longing for God.

Despite this feeling of aloneness she wrote: "I have loved Him blindly, totally, only. I use every power in me-in spite of my feelings, to make Him loved personally by the Sisters & people. I will let Him have a free Hand with and in me."

I ask the same for me and you.

From Mother Teresa: Come be my light, Doubleday, 2007

Matt said...

Hey, totally OT, but were you at the March? I think next year I need to ask around the blogosphere about who's going beforehand. I've found out after the fact that people I know were there and I had no idea (how could I?). Anyway, it'd be nice to meet some folks and have a drink next year.

Sorry, carry on.

Matt

Tim A. Troutman said...

This loneliness is part of what led me to the Catholic Church. At first, my expectations may have been a bit too romantic in a sense. You don't instantly find complete satisfaction to this problem of course as Devin said.

He's right. I had two 'connections' on a spiritual level recently where I could speak honestly - not necessarily about doctrines but spirituality and one's Christian walk. One was with a friend (PCA elder) and another with a stranger last night - (A Baptist!!!)

They're just brief snacks, we're all waiting for the full meal at the wedding supper of the Lamb when we'll stop praying for unity.

But in the meantime, let's keep it up.

Peace

Thos said...

Kim,

Thanks, and good tip on Michael's struggles. It's a good reminder, you note, for me to share intellectual observations more than emotional states over the internet. The other stuff is probably better for live relationships. In that light, I hope this post was an intellectual observation about emotional states.

I hope you feel ready to land somewhere.

T.Q.,

Only you could know the modern record for Vanderbilt graduates spent in No-Man's Land.

Devin,

Excellent points. I agree in total, and should always be mindful of what you say. I think though that I was also trying to consider something a bit less intimate, and would guess that exists more in any Church where people bow to authorities a bit more. I've seen this type of spiritual connection amongst relatives involved with the Reformed Baptist movement, for example. They are united in their views about not watching TV on Sundays. Their spiritual connection is their view of the Bible, and they don't accept as much dissent as my church does (so all of our views are much more scattered, so few things are subject to wide agreement).

Matt,

I was there, and I should be there next year too (Lord willing). Definitely keep me in mind, it would be fun to meet up.

Tim,

Thanks, and ditto for what I said to Devin.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Tertium Quid said...

I was looking at the comments again and thought of another benefit of Catholicism: the communion of saints.

I once thought of Christian fellowship as limited to the land of the living, despite Hebrews 11-12's "great cloud of witnesses" who were obviously on the other side of the Jordan.

I have been isolated in some way spiritually for decades. I've been Lutheran in a Southern town, a Protestant in No-Man's Land, a gung-ho Catholic among the frozen chosen in the Midwest, a gung-ho Catholic at Vandy law school, and a gung-ho Catholic here in Yoknapatawpha County.

The communion of saints has become my daily fellowship. I just walked my dog and said a Rosary. At the end, I kept moving my hand over the beads and thought of a saint for each one. My friends are the ones who feel what I feel and share my sense of the eternal around the corner and sometimes floating in the air. They understand they are part of something bigger than themselves that is born of Christ and united with Christ and united with us.

That being said, I have two suggestions: (1) perhaps we should start a listserve for our blogosphere fellowship. I'd start with a half-dozen bloggers on my list of favorites. (2) perhaps we should have a "virtual party," a night a handful of us each post a half-dozen comments on our friends' blogs, toast each other, and then repeat the process. I'd suggest a Friday night at 10 p.m. EST.

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