Sermon of the Week
Be Thou My Vision: I Ever With Thee.
Keywords: Loneliness, Omnipresence, Sue the TRex, O’Hare, You Are Loved, Stewardship.
Sometimes all we want is to be left alone.
Any teenager has felt that way,
with their parents hounding them to clean their room
or to get their homework done.
Any parent has felt that way,
seeking just a few minutes to collect themselves, please,
after a stressful day at work
and coming home to a mountain of needful things to accomplish
and the dog and kids all have stuff to get done. Right. This. Very. Minute.
Whether you’re happily self-parterned, like Emma Watson,
or you’ve have been married for 60 years,
maybe you have a place where you can go to just get away from things,
an epic man-cave,
or a quiet room with a chair and a throw and a place for your book and your tea,
or a place where you can turn your music way up or play your instrument really loud.
Introverts and extraverts alike
can feel this need to be left alone,
and while often for different reasons
the underlying feeling isn’t all that different.
Sometimes we don’t want to be engaged, or connected, at least not right now.
A little bit of space, please, would help put things into context,
clear out the chaos a little bit,
maybe make engagement again, in a few minutes please, a bit more healthy.
A little bit of privacy, of knowing that this is just between me and me,
helps us retain a good balance between
giving all that energy and emotion and time to others,
and exercising important self-care.
Then again, there are times when we are aching for connection, for relationship.
Sometimes the loneliest I have ever felt have been in crowds of people.
Have you felt that way too?
One year, I think I counted walking through Chicago’s O’Hare airport
maybe 15 times.
Once I was there on a super-long layover
some plane needed a repair done to a folding tray or something,
and I found myself wandering around in parts of the airport I’d never been before
over in the American Airlines wing
and found that to be quite the same as over by the United flights,
which is to say
thousands upon thousands of people, most of them in a hurry
maybe a bit anxious or stressed,
trying to get to some gate way over there
and not quite happy about the prospects of speed walking for the next 15 minutes
to get there.
O’Hare is a huge airport.
I actually think it is beautiful, in its own way.
The architecture soars.
The public art is quite lovely.
I particularly like the way that they display enlarged versions
of kid-drawings from local Chicago Public Schools
in one of the skyways between terminals.
If you know where to go,
you can even see a four story tall replica of a Brachiosaurus dinosaur
looming large over those rushing by…
an invitation to visitors to go check out the Field Museum
where you can see the even more impressive
Tyrannosaurus Rex they’ve got, lovingly named Sue.
But even in this hustle and bustle airport,
I have sometimes felt so alone.
Everyone rushing by,
only stopping, if at all,
to visit the powder room,
or grab a bite to eat on the go.
There are all these shops at the airport:
you can get a leather coat,
a new blazer,
Oakley sunglasses, a five-gallon tub of popcorn
and some south-west inspired artistic figurine…
without ever really looking up,
making eye contact or sharing a smile or a hello, even once.
The sales transactions at the cash register are often perfunctory,
because the travelers are rushing to their gate,
ready to speed-walk with their new purchase stuffed into their carry-on.
It feels so weird to be at a place like O’Hare and NOT be running all over the place.
I once had a conversation with one of the janitors at the airport:
“Yeah, one of the busiest places in the world,
and I almost never have anyone say a word to me.
You’re the first person that doesn’t work here
to say ‘hello’ to me in more than a month.
It isn’t that I think people are rude or anything.
They just have better things to do.”
It isn’t that hard to feel disconnected in places like that.
There have been moments when I’ve been away from family
and I’ve been really, really ready to get home
to see people I know and love and miss
and to be stuck in the airport for hours
and feel really isolated.
Truth is, though,
if you are lonely,
even if it’s a temporary loneliness,
or something more regular,
it doesn’t matter whether you’re in a large crowd,
or at a more manageable place,
like a coffee shop, or a city park,
you just feel alone.
For some, this is ok.
Suits them just fine most of the time.
But for many of us,
that’s just not a very enjoyable feeling at all.
One of the most accurate descriptions of the human being was Aristotle’s:
We are social rational animals. [Read more…]