Today is my birthday. I don’t want to be alone. Instead, I want all of my friends around me for a grand party. That, of course, isn’t going to happen. But it did cause me to think about being alone, something I used to dread. These days, living far away from my son, my grandchildren and my long-time friends, I am learning how to be alone.
Sometimes, this journey we call life is a lonely one. It feels as if we are traveling alone, without a companion, without a comforter. What we hold inside remains silent, because we honestly believe that there is no one to hear us. The inner pain we sometimes experience remains hidden, because we believe that no one will listen to our laments. The journey can indeed be lonely.
But I love the words of Paul Tillich, who speaks of solitude as opposed to loneliness, who refers to aloneness as both pain and glory.
Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.
― Paul Tillich
How do we find the glory of being alone, that state of being that welcomes solitude as a way to better know ourselves and to more fully draw near to God? I believe it takes time, a bit of discipline, and a great deal of prayer. With that, we will find that solitude is a cherished way to be, a way to grow and change from inside the depths of our soul.
Though we often feel we need another person to talk to, perhaps we don’t, at least sometimes. Being alone can be important. It can be that glorious time when we feel at peace with ourselves and we can speak without voice.
Paul Tillich wrote:
We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words, they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.
We have to be alone, in solitude, to hear it . . . the rustling of leaves, the moving of clouds, the murmuring of the sea. That is the glory of being alone.