The Divine Flow
The other day I was sitting in my house thinking about loneliness.
Now I want to be clear, I wasn't thinking about loneliness because I was lonely. I was thinking about loneliness because I am working on a sermon series called "Come and Be Known," and it's brought up a lot of questions, probably more questions than answers.
One of the more significant questions has been: why would you bother to be known?
It's a fundamental question, given the series I've been writing. So I was thinking about that in my house the other day and it led me to thinking about loneliness. I have come to believe that heart of loneliness is an overwhelming feeling that you are not authentically and intimately known. And this absence, it is profoundly felt. The evidence is all around us in stories of isolation and hiding, stories that all too often end in tragedy.
But the question remains: why?
To attempt to answer this question, let's talk about atoms. (Didn't see that coming, did you?)
In case you have been privileged enough to avoid chemistry and/or physics for your entire life, let's do a refresher. An atom is made of three primary components: a proton, a neutron, and an electron. (For you stickers out there, I'll mention that a hydrogen atom doesn't have a neutron. Happy now?) These three things come to together to form the essential building blocks of, well, pretty much everything. Think about it: because these three things want to be in relationship with each other, you exist. You are here because of a relationship.
Atoms join with other atoms to make molecules that join with other molecules to make cells that join with other cells to make tissues that join with other tissues to make organs that join with other organs to make organ systems that join with other organ systems to make you.
So I can tell you confidently that you are meant for relationship because you are made of relationships.
The relational pattern of the universe. All things desire to be in relationship with other things. This is how life is created and how everything evolves. Elements combine to make something that didn't exist before. This thing in the universe, it has flow, movement, momentum. The above quoted Richard Rohr calls it "The Divine Flow". And when we look at it, when we find the answer to what is so profound about loneliness.
All that exists is stuff in relationship. When we isolate and start to feel insignificant, we literally move in the opposite direction of the Divine Flow. That's why loneliness is so powerful and why isolation can hurt so deeply. It is exactly opposite to where God and the universe are trying to move us. But - as my beautiful drawn picture demonstrates - there is a sort of momentum to loneliness too, isn't there?
I want to be clear: being alone in and of itself is not a bad thing. I have some introverted tendencies and I really value my alone time. But too much time alone can make us feel lonely. When we start feeling lonely, we start to hear lies about our significance, things like, "Well if no one wants to be with me, I must not be worth being with." And when that lie plants itself in your brain, it causes you to isolate. Why would a person with no value and nothing to offer put himself in the world at all? And we all know - and unfortunately have likely experienced - what that dangerous falsehood can lead to: spiritual and physical death.
Do you know what I'm talking about?
These feelings of insignificance are significant (see what I did there?). The deep pain they cause is - I believe - a message to us from God. This is not how it is supposed to be.
When I was in the Navy, I went on a deployment that took me to the country of Guam for a month. Guam is, essentially, a poor man's Hawaii. When we weren't working, we all tried to get out and enjoy what the country had to offer. One day I was snorkeling with a doctor friend of mine. We started out in a bay, in calm waters. As we swam out further, we found some rough seas. Before we could swim past the break, my friend suggested we ought to turn around, saying, "I think this might be a stupid idea." I agreed and we turned around, heading for calmer waters. As we did, we got caught in a riptide. This is a fairly alarming experience: you are trying to swim in one direction as the water pulls you in another. What ends up happening is you don't move at all. If you stay there, fighting the current for too long, you eventually tire and get pulled out to sea. The trick to getting out of one is to swim sideways, so you aren't fighting the current anymore. Which we did.
When we finally made it to shore, we were exhausted. We had been bashed up against rocks and coral, and we both had the wounds to show for it. I sat on the beach as rain started to fall and thanked God that I had survived. The metaphor here might be painfully obvious, but that doesn't make it any less true:
Fighting the Divine Flow is exhausting.
It can make you feel like you are stuck in one place.
And if you fight it long enough, you might end up lost.
You can hear and feel it. The Divine Flow, the movement of the universe. And - perhaps more importantly - you can feel it deep within you when you're fighting against it. You know what it feels like when you are pulled in by the current of community. You know how much stronger we are together.
You know all of this to be true because - just like when we isolate and start to believe lies about our significance - when we move with the momentum of the universe, we hear that voice of affirmation. A voice that tells us: this is how it is supposed to be.
You were meant for relationship because you're made of relationships.
So the invitation today is a very simple one: say yes.