You can pray about loneliness (part two)
This week, we’re taking on loneliness in a two-part interview with Christian Science practitioner and teacher Curt Wahlberg. Read part one here.
It sounds like part of healing loneliness involves moving from being in “getting” mode to being in “giving” mode.
That’s true, but before we talk more about that, I want to acknowledge that when you’re already feeling empty or lonely, you might be wondering what you could possibly have to give. We need something more than pat answers or some happy beliefs about ourselves in order to really find this fulfillment that we’re talking about.
Soul is forever moving us to share with others.
So let me just speak from my own experience here. Even in my most difficult moments, I’ve found that real satisfaction doesn’t come from getting something from others. It comes from finding this goodness, this love from God, that we each have within us, and then magnifying and sharing that.
There’s this idea I like to think about: that we are each lamps in the room. We bring our own light, the light we reflect from God. We can appreciate others’ light. We can benefit from it. But we don’t lack light, because we already have that light within us, and the nature of that light is that it has to be shared. A lamp isn’t of any use if it’s not giving off light.
But what if we feel like we don’t have any light to give?
That’s where this shift of perspective we’ve been talking about comes in—really understanding our identity as spiritual. That gets to the challenge of seeing ourselves as something bigger than one personality among billions. Because the world says that personality is the answer. Have the right personality and all your problems will be solved.
But in the end, that’s problematic, because defining ourselves based on a human personality is limiting. You’re left feeling like one piece that needs to fit into a really big jigsaw puzzle. And the possibilities for that seem so miniscule.
So that’s why we need to get this God-based sense of identity, of spiritual individuality not personality. What that means is that there’s really just one source for all of us: infinite Soul. Not a lot of little souls or personalities, but just one Soul with a capital “S.” In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines God as “the Soul of man and of all existence” (p. 280). And Soul is forever moving us to share with others. It’s in the spontaneous idea to do something nice for a sibling, or the love that pushes you outside yourself to include someone who’s hovering on the fringes.
And that same Soul, which is also Love, keeps us from getting hung up on how what we’re giving fits in, or how it’s accepted, or what others’ impressions of it are. We’re just feeling the joy of finding it within and expressing it. And that completely erases any sense of loneliness.
But then what if we’re not around people who are going to appreciate our light?
It’s so easy to box ourselves into some limited and particular personality. We only like certain things, we have certain political beliefs, so we only click with certain people. And then, “Oh no, I can’t seem to find the right person.” So then we feel lonely or unfulfilled.
The solution is that somehow this sense of spiritual individuality needs to change our perception of everyone. Because our own satisfaction includes a more spiritual view, not just of ourselves, but of others, too. Each one of us is spiritual, and that means our lives and what connects us are bigger than human opinions, bigger than human circumstances, bigger than the family we come from, bigger than human definitions.
Our lives are the radiant goodness of Soul expressed in and through each of us. Which of course is totally good, totally special, unique. Our lives are not about needing something added to us in order to feel that we’re complete or that we fit in.
When we’re simply shining as the expression of Soul, then we find that bigger connection that we all share.
It’s certainly right to have good friends. But if we’re stuck feeling like the fulfillment we want is dependent on a particular friend or circumstance, then we’re still vulnerable. Even if we’ve got that perfect friend or the girlfriend or boyfriend we’ve been after, that person can still move on or disappoint us.
But with this spiritual model we’re talking about, when we’re simply shining as the expression of Soul, then we find that bigger connection that we all share. We feel connected by our God-given value, not surfacey personality stuff. And whomever we’re with, we’ve got love and good purpose and joy to share with them.
So how do we do that? Like really practically, how do we shine from an infinite source?
In my life, it’s this constant effort to shift my focus from myself to God. I let go of trying to get the things around me to make me feel complete and instead say, “I think I’m ready to make the story about God and what God is doing through me.” So a very simple prayer I’ve found helpful is the prayer to appreciate God’s relevance, significance, presence; God as the source of life and identity; God the Soul of all of us.
And then wow—it happens. Good comes forward. And a feeling of good purpose and a clearer perception of my identity come forward. It doesn’t mean that the whole struggle is over, but the ball is starting to roll. So we get this feeling bubbling up inside us of, What can I do today? What can I share with the world today? It can take work, consistency. But as we pray this way and let those prayers move us, feeling this connection to our infinite source becomes more effortless. And then that feeling of loneliness has no place to exist, because we see and feel our completeness and our special place in lighting up the world. And that’s very satisfying.