On loneliness

Of all the emotions I've ever experienced, loneliness is among the most devastating. Loneliness is a painful, hollow place in your chest. A space your heart knocks on with every beat, as if to remind you, "I'm still here. You're still alone."

Those who have felt this empty aching will know exactly what I mean when I say loneliness is an ache that sensitizes; it sensitizes you to all your insecurities, frustrations, fears, and griefs. One of my favorite authors Walter Wangerin Jr. describes this feeling when he talks about the loneliness he experienced during his first year of graduate school:

I was overwhelmed by sense of exile and by the suspicion that this would never end, that I had just entered the real world and discovered what life would be like forever.... If anything troubled the simple schedule of my day, I felt as though I would burst into tears. The snow itself seemed to suffocate me, and little criticisms in red pencil on my paper were intolerable.... When I bumped my head on the corner of the cupboard- no more than a little knock- I suffered a whole range of emotions from fury to pitiful tears.

I've experienced seasons of this kind of loneliness. But only for a season. Still, I so clearly remember with dread that awful, empty ache. Even now when I hear someone express a sense of loneliness, I waver between empathy and the temptation of apathy. Loneliness is so painful I can hardly bear to go near it.

That's why what devastates me the most about an orphan, it the loneliness. The alone-ness. The without-ness. And the fact that the fear that you've just discovered what life will be like forever- might actually be true.

In Russia children age out of the orphanage system around age 17. That's about 15,000 orphans every year. 10% will take their own lives. Loneliness kills. The majority of boys will turn to a life of crime. The majority of girls will turn to prostitution. Loneliness devastates.

This weekend I was reading a blog post by an adoption advocacy group and in the post the author quoted a young orphan boy in Eastern Europe. He said:

Do you know anyone who would like to take a boy like me? I would really like for a visitor at least, because I am all alone and I have no one.

A visitor, at least. Someone to break the loneliness. Just for a bit. Relief from the ache. If only for a little while. I. have. no one.

I've been devastated by this little boy's words all weekend. And I guess all week since we're now pushing onto Wednesday.

And I think I should be. Because that loneliness fear- that this is what life will be like forever- should be just that: a fear. And not a reality, for anyone. Especially not a child.

I have to admit that in the face of 143 million orphans, adopting one seems so small. I know what a difference we will make for our son (and he for us), but the fact of 142, 999, 999 lonely children out there is something that will always bring me to my knees.

And I guess I want to end this post by saying: not everyone is called to adopt. Many are called to orphan care through financial or other means. John and I would not be able to adopt without those people. BUT- there are so many couples and individuals out there who say to themselves at some point, "I'd like to adopt," and there are too few who actually follow through.
This happens for many reasons- fear, finances, lack of time, anxiety about what it would do to the other kids or family dynamic, etc. And you know what? I'm scared about all those things too. But I also have to say: if God has placed the desire to adopt on your heart- follow that calling.

As long as there are orphans in the world there are people whom God is calling to adopt who have not answered. If you think you have this calling, you probably do.

I will be the first to testify to God's faithfulness in this calling. I urge you: step out in faith and open yourself up to watch God work.

Be someone for a child who has no one and put the awful ache of loneliness to death.

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