Some dear friends of mine live on a lake. As you can imagine, the landscape and the waterscape create beautiful scenes morning and afternoon all year long. Not long ago, they began to recognize that there was a goose that made his way up and down the water’s edge and sometimes out into the lake. He was all alone. They began to realize that the goose had been injured and could not fly and did not get around too well. There he was, by himself.
It wasn’t long until they noticed a flock of geese came in to the lake and would fly around and swim around, and the lone goose would come up to where they were and kind of tag along but the other geese somewhat ignored him. In the evening, they would fly away and come back the next morning.
It was repeated behavior, except the old lone goose began to develop some interactions with them. They sort of welcomed him into the group, so much so that in the evening when they would leave, he would really be down. He couldn’t fly so he would waddle along the edge of the lake, swim sometimes, find a place to stop, and rest for the night. The next morning when the other geese came back to the lake, he would literally begin to honk and squawk as if he was thrilled to death to see all of them. It was a joyful occasion and the group itself would hang around out there with him and seemingly give him encouragement and company throughout the day and again they went back to wherever they nested and rested. It was, in fact, and continues to be, a great study in the needs of all of us, even an old lone goose. The interaction we need with each other. The friendship, the fellowship. The connectedness with folks we know and spend time with is vitally important. Without question, one of the glorious dynamics of the Lord’s church is the koinonia, the love fest, the fellowship, the relationships, care. The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
The truth is that there are a lot of lone geese in this world. In fact, at some time or other, it is probably every one of us. Sometimes even when we try to connect with the group, they may fly away. Given a little opportunity and time, they come back and maybe something is developing that will be a personal treasure and a precious part of our lives. Loneliness is a terrible thing. Loneliness seems to be a mixture of depression and loss of will and emptiness and foreboding about the future to the point that you really don’t know where to look or where to turn.
As you think about loneliness, you need to remember you don’t have to be alone to be lonely. You can be in a crowd, in a huge gathering of thousands of people and be desperately lonely. Those people are all around us. The person who recently has lost their mate can be desperately lonely. The youngster who has moved to a new school where he knows no one and is trying to fit in and find his way down the halls can feel desperately lonely. Maybe the international person who for business reasons or medical needs has come to the States and is struggling through the terrible feeling of trying to communicate in another language. Loneliness invades their hearts and there are people all around them. I guess we could make a long list of things that would put us into that position and it might include what brought loneliness to your life.
The other thing we need to remember about loneliness is while you don’t have to be alone to be lonely, you can be alone and not be lonely. In fact, being alone can be a wonderful blessing. I think about the wonderful school teacher who has been teaching seventh and eighth graders all day long. The bell finally rings and they all leave. Whew. Peace at last. Or the parents who have all their kids and grandkids come in for a week of celebration at Christmastime and finally all 36 of them have gone back home. Peace on earth, good will to men. In a deeper sense, you and I can find strength, health, love, a sense of warmth and acceptance, even when you are alone or when you are feeling lonely.
How can you do that? Well, I would not say it’s as easy as ABC because it may not be easy at all. ABC does describe some helps for you when you are the lonely goose.
A – Anchor. Anchor your life to Jesus Christ, the loving and caring Savior who will never leave you nor forsake you. That’s what He said and His promise is true. Sometimes when you feel His presence with you, He is with you. On the days when you may not feel as close to Him and wonder if He is close to you, mark this down: He is there and He is with you. He will not abandon you. He will stay with you. You can remain anchored to Him regardless of what the circumstances might be, regardless of how the wind may blow, regardless of what someone may say. Stay anchored to Jesus.
B – Be Pleasant. Be pleasant to all the people with whom you come in contact. I don’t care who they are, where they are, what they are doing. You may have a doctor’s appointment. Be pleasant to the people who greet you and help you. You may be going through the grocery store. Be pleasant and you will be amazed at how many people will be pleasant in return. Oh, I promise you there will be some of them who will be grouchy even if you were to stand on your head and sing and hand out $100 bills, but be pleasant to everyone with whom you come in contact. You will find your spirit and actions will touch people’s lives who then amazingly will bless your life. When they do, it’s hard for loneliness to dwell in the atmosphere created in your heart.
C – Concentrate. Concentrate on others and not yourself. If you are experiencing loneliness, the more you concentrate on yourself the more lonely you will feel. When you concentrate on others, the less isolated you will be. I’m not talking about getting on your computer and getting on Facebook running around creation looking at what everybody else is saying or thinking or doing. That can be depressing beyond words. I’m talking about real life interaction to find someone who is an open door in need of your care, your love, your sweet spirit. Suddenly the world will look different as you concentrate on them.
No doubt, somewhere along the way today you will see or hear a lone goose. Life has closed in on him and he can’t fly anymore. He may be honking and squawking. Sometimes that old goose may be you. Watch for some of the members of the flock, for they may come around and bless your life and you can bless their lives.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral