"What if I'm lonely?" Daniel, age 5
He loves going, but he doesn't want to go. It's an ordinary Sunday morning, and, after weeks in a row of joyfully heading off to Sunday school, my baby is suddenly afraid.
"What if I have a stomach ache?" They've been frequent, but the doctor assures us that everything is fine. It's just a stage.
At first, it seemed like it would just go away, like most stages do, but then he asked this unexpected question: "What if I'm lonely?" He was imagining it, lonliness in a room full of others, teachers, friends.
I know that feeling. It's a cliche: Lonely in a crowded room. Then I knew it wasn't a stage that would soon pass.
At nearly five plus thirty-seven years, it hasn't passed for me. I remain aware that even in the most intimate of company, I can still feel alone. There exists this deep place inside where no one can really go with me. My baby still trusts that I, at least, can meet him in his deep place. For now, that's enough for him. Someday it won't be.
Daniel does not understand the absence, the longing he is beginning to recognize. I think I might. Barely. Another cliche: The God-shaped hole inside.
I used to try to fill it with other things -- food, fantasy, noise. Sometimes I still want to try, even though I know it never really helps.
"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2, NRSV). Good question. Like Daniel's question: "What if I'm lonely?" What shall I do then?
"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:22).