“The supreme happiness of this life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves-say rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
“It is not good for man to be alone.” These are interestingly haunting words that are spoken to Adam by God in the garden. In a culture that strives for independence and self-sufficiency it is easy to see why those words would be so quickly forgotten. It is amazing to me that even in Paradise we are told that we need people. I remember hearing often during times of loneliness that all I needed to do was rest in God. I would hear young singles being told simply to be married to God. Any and all unhappiness in life could be quenched by focusing ones attention upon the God above.
Why do you think it is that God doesn’t love us more? I find God to often be very unsatisfying. His love is rarely tangible and it often lacks a certain satisfaction. As a therapist, I have seen many people struggling with loneliness and self-worth. I think of one individual who could not imagine how God could love her and allow her to be in so much pain. She thought that if she could find one person who cared about her then her life would be worth living. Why was God not enough for this person? Why wasn’t God’s love enough? More to the point, why wasn’t it believed.
I am convinced that God could love us better. He is limitless. He could physically embrace me in my pain and speak audibly to my sorrow. He could sit and talk with me and give me advice. When I’m scared he could comfort me. Now he does these things, but in a very attenuated manner. It is like working hard all day in the hot sun with no food, waiting for the evening to come and dreaming of a big a hot meal. I rush into the house and am given a cup of hot broth. It is ultimately unsatisfying. It tastes good, it provides some nourishment, but the undeniable fact is that it is not enough.
Why is God’s love not more palpable? Why is it not more fulfilling? Perhaps, if it was, we would not need those around us. How could we passionately love and cling to others if everything was already met in God. Could it be that those who cloister their lives in the prayer closet are longing to find love without others? Is the true lure of finding complete sufficiency in God a life without dependency on others? Are we longing to avoid the pain and anxiety of putting ourselves in others’ hands? The final product being an individual removed from this life? Not even being in this world, much less of it? Upon reflection, have I not been most connected when most in need? It is interesting to note that neuroscience has indicated that social isolation is neurotoxic. Depriving oneself of contact with others actually does damage to the brain.
In an experiment concerning learning, scientists tried to teach canaries how to sing a tune based upon recordings from other canaries but the birds were unable to learn. But once a live canary performed before them, they picked up the tune easily. There are things that can only be learned and transferred through relationship. We live in a world of self-help books but ironically we are in desperate need of relationship. Why am I still in business as a therapist with so many resources out there? Because we were not designed to heal in isolation.
Perhaps the church being equated with the “body of Christ” is more than a metaphor or handy lyrics to a song. If we want to feel God’s embrace we must embrace and be embraced by others.