“How are you?” my friend Rachael asked. I was surprised by the tears that leaked from my eyes when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone. I didn’t realize how much I needed to be asked that question. Rachael is my dear friend who I have years of meaningful history with. How am I? “Holy lonely," I told her, “Most days I feel some new kind of lonely. It's hard to describe. Anyway, God is here with me so it is a good lonely. Maybe a sacred lonely. I have Him and He is teaching me so much through the new loneliness.”
In Indiana we had the most incredible community. I lived in Grant County my entire life until I moved here. I was the voice in the family who gathered people for holidays and sporadic cookouts. Being the extrovert that I am, my calendar would often fill up with dates for coffee, cupcake or tea with friends. Our family was very involved in our church and community. We did life together with others. We only left them because Jesus told us to. When we ache for familiar (the booth seats at La Chas, Joe Allen' strong hugs, snow in the winter and soft rain that lasts for days, Suzanne's warm smile, Uncle Luke and Uncle Micah's laughter) we give that longing to Jesus like worship. Not like worship. Worship. And in our worship He is faithful to fill those empty spaces with Himself.
Today during my morning jog familiar pain and longing filled me as I sang to the Lord, “There is no one else for me, none but Jesus.” I do not wish the ache away. I've sung that song many times before but it means something different now. Before coming to Uganda I think it was probably another song about idols. "There are no idols...Jesus is my one and only God." Now it feels more like a song from the desert. "There's no one with me, just me and my Jesus." It's a significant change but a good one.
God is faithfully building community for us here. In fact, we spend more time with people here in Uganda than we were able to in Indiana. He is blessing us with the meaningful friendships we have prayed for. Much of the problem of loneliness comes from culture. Much of what nurtures great relationships are the shared experiences between us. While we are able to develop friendships that matter it is more difficult to sink into that comfortable sweet deepness that heals and soothes the soul.
The point is this: in the midst of these hardships we feel things. These negative emotions dot the landscape of our day to day. Somehow we have to respond to them. God brought us here and its great but not all great. The good and bad are all in the same basket. Our choice is in what to do with the bad stuff. Our family has fought (really fought) to not settle for calling it 'bad'. These negative pieces of life are regularly offered to Him as sacrifices of praise and worship. Even the lonely hours. We give these little bad dots in the missionary life to God saying, "Here Lord, take this because we love you."