"To live a spiritual life, I must find the courage to enter the desert of loneliness and to change it by gentle persistent effort into a garden of solitude.”
- Henri Nouwen
In this poetic expression, Father Nouwen is saying that we can take our loneliness and make it a place we can live with. This is good news. We are people who suffer from loneliness. In life, we quickly learn that people are not the cure for loneliness. We find that the worst loneliness is when we are surrounded with people, people who do not know us really, people who do not understand our inside, people who do not care. Or we are with one person, who does not know, understand or care.
The cure for loneliness is love and understanding. To find some one who will listen, understand and go on loving makes us know that we are part of another and they a part of us. We are not alone. But, I think, people are half measures. They do not have the power to fill up that longing we have inside. Only God can do that. So we must risk being alone to let Him do it.
When we know that God is truly always with us, that God fills us up, then we can take the risk of getting close to others. If they let us down for a while, that is understandable. We still have God filling us up. When we know that God is truly with us, then we have taken our loneliness and changed it into a place called solitude, a place we can enjoy.
Fr. James O’Leary