This Friday, the sun will set in Austin at 5:34 pm, and will not rise until 7:23 am on Saturday – roughly ten hours of daylight and fourteen hours of darkness. The longest, darkest night of the year.

We’re told through advertisements and tradition that during Christmas we are supposed to be happy, full of joy, and surrounded by family and friends. But many of us are dealing with other emotions: grief, loneliness, depression, disappointment, and anxiety. Many of us attempt to push down and put aside these feelings, trying to mask them over with the season’s joy and happiness. But the feelings are still there, still prevalent and intertwined in our lives.

For me, loneliness is one of the biggies in my life this time of year. Some people think that my loneliness means that I am alone. Sometimes that’s a good thing – we need to be alone, to be by ourselves and away from people, but that’s not loneliness, that’s solitude. Loneliness is deeper than that. Loneliness is darker than that. For me, it’s like sitting in a room at night by yourself and feeling like it will never become light again. It’s being invisible in a room full of people.

If you’re like me, the Christmas season’s loneliness can eat away at any sort of joy we may be able to muster up.  It’s difficult because this is a season of togetherness – family and friends coming together and eating big meals, opening presents, and playing games.  And we, the lonely, may be part of these gatherings, but we feel apart from them.  There is something deep within us that is hurt.  There is something deep within us that longs for true connection.

We can put on a happy face and carry on lively conversations, but we are split within our souls because we know deep down that there is something less than happy and lively.  We smile widely for the pictures, laugh loudly at the jokes, and carry on the conversations.  But within us is another person who wants to scream out for someone to truly notice us.

In truth, our loneliness comes out of a desire for an intimate relationship with someone else.  This intimacy isn’t sexual in any way – it’s much deeper than that.  Intimacy is closeness and familiarity.  Intimacy is private and personal.  Intimacy is vulnerability.  Our loneliness cries out for intimacy on an emotional and spiritual level that most take for granted.  Our loneliness desires fulfillment from being with other people on a soul level.

Sandburg’s words ring true for us, the lonely. We would suffer hunger, pain, want, shame, and failure all for intimacy – true intimacy – with another person.

As the darkest, longest night of the year comes upon us, let us continue to cry out to God, “I am lonely and troubled! Save me from my sadness!” May God hear our cries for comfort in our loneliness, grief, depression, disappointment, and anxiety. And may we find respite on this darkest night.

[Many churches offer Blue Christmas services which recognize and speak to these issues – you can do a quick search to find one locally. If you’d like to speak with someone about these feelings, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You’ll hear an automated message that will ask a few brief questions, then your call will be routed to a local Lifeline network center where your call will be answered by a trained worker who will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and get you the help you need.]

much love. sheth.

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