You’re not crazy. I promise, you’re not.
I spoke those words to a friend this morning as we talked through some trauma in her life. I was able to look in her eyes and let her know she was seen. She was heard. She was valued. And she wasn’t crazy.
In my weekly email last week I told a story about working at the food pantry (If you’re not getting that email, click here to sign up. You’ll get a story and some inspiration each Sunday afternoon as your way to frame the upcoming week). But back to the food pantry. As a small detail of that story, I shared that it’s not unusual for the clients I work with to choke up after I pray with them and they often leave my check-in area with tears in their eyes. A large part of that is the prayer. But another piece of it is that they’re in circumstances in life where they don’t feel seen, heard, acknowledged, or valued. I get to look them in the eye, listen to their story and care for them for a few minutes.
The people who find themselves on the doorstep of the food pantry aren’t the only ones who need to feel known. I’m responsible for leading a team who executes a weekly catered meeting at church. It happens every Sunday afternoon between services and we serve anywhere from 20 to 80 people each week. Our goal with the class is to take people new to our church from curious to connected in the course of four weeks. More important than the actual class information we teach is the culture of the gathering and how we connect, listen to, and love on people. Our guests respond because we all need to feel seen, known and connected.
We were made as social beings, for community. The American Psychological Association says about prisoners in solitary confinement,
Deprived of normal human interaction, many segregated prisoners reportedly suffer from mental health problems including anxiety, panic, insomnia, paranoia, aggression and depression, Haney says (Crime and Delinquency, 2003).To Haney, evidence of these effects comes as no surprise. “It borders on being common sense, but it’s common sense with a lot of empirical research that supports it,” he says. “‘So much of what we do and who we are is rooted in a social context.”
Social isolation is also damaging and it’s on the rise. One South China Morning Post article says, “social isolation – time actually spent alone – boosted the risk of dying by about thirty per cent in people who suffered a stroke or heart attack, according to the study, published in Heart, a medical journal.” And “A study…covering more than 800,000 people from a dozen nations found that walking through life alone also increases the chances of dementia, by about 40 per cent.”
In the age of social media, when our “best of” in life is all that other people know about us, our ability to connect is not increasing. It’s actually decreasing. We have access 24/7/365 to entertainment, distraction, and interaction in the palm of our hand. But, we’re more emotionally isolated as a culture than any culture in history.
I recently sat with an old friend of mine and listened as she described issues she was dealing with. I empathized with her and described how I’d experienced similar feelings and what I’d done with them. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “You mean, I’m not alone?” No. You’re definitely not alone.
You’re not alone either.
I don’t know exactly what you’re going through. I don’t know what situation you find yourself in today. I don’t know the circumstances of your life. But, you are most definitely not alone.
If I was next to you, I’d ask your story. I’d listen. I’d laugh with you if you needed and cry with you if you needed. I’d hug you and listen some more. But, I’m not next to you. I can’t do that today. What I can do is remind you of a few things.
You need people.
You’re not the only one who’s felt the feelings you’re feeling. I know, it can seem totally unique, and it’s true, no one has had your exact set of circumstances, your exact personal story, but the human experience is universal in many important ways. There are others who can sympathize and you can find them. It takes courage and vulnerability to begin to live in community, to let others know you, to connect. But, not being alone…not living in isolation…is worth it. Even when it’s messy and difficult, it’s worth it. We need people to share our struggles, encourage us, and celebrate with us.
You need Jesus.
We also need Jesus. And he’s not a long-distance savior. He didn’t leave you in a situation to work your way out of it alone. He’s in there with you. He’s been human. He’s experienced what you’ve experienced. Pain. Check. Betrayal. Check. Loneliness. Check. Anger. Check. He knows. He understands. And he’s with you in the midst of your pain.
While I can’t look in your eyes today and tell you that you’re not crazy, I can say with all confidence that you are not alone. And we (me included) spend way too much time in life acting like we are.
God sees you. Jesus knows how you feel. The Holy Spirit comforts. The one who created the galaxies with his word loves you more than you can imagine. And it’s a fierce, emotional, protective, engaged love.
Savor that feeling. That idea. That you don’t have to do anything differently than you’re doing right now or be anyone different than you are right now in order to be cherished by God.
Today. Right now. Exactly as you are. You are loved. And you are not alone.