Even now, though I’m in my sixties, I can still feel the isolation and dread that threatened to engulf me on that dark stage. I was completely alone, engulfed with inescapable dread, barely able to breathe. I can’t describe how terrifying that felt and still feels to me now when I call it to mind.
My nightmare probably expressed that loneliness and my sense that there was something intrinsically wrong with me that wasn’t wrong with people who had “normal” families. My dad had left our home fairly early on, and my mom worked hard to try to make ends meet for my brother and me. When I think back on my childhood, “family” isn’t a word I would use to describe it. After walking home alone from school every day, I would play by myself (and eat toast) until my mom arrived home from work, usually about 6 p.m. Then we would have some dinner, and I would go play with my dolls by myself or watch TV. My early life wasn’t very social. In fact, it really wasn’t social at all. I didn’t have a lot of friends.
I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever felt that way. In fact, I think everyone struggles with feelings of alienation and a suspicion that something is very broken at the deepest places in our lives, no matter if we grew up as latchkey kids or in a loving family of nine. Alienation and aloneness are expressed in many ways. It can be expressed as inadequacy: “I can’t do this on my own,” or “I never seem to be able to get it right!” (whatever it is). It can also be expressed in the lack of being understood: “No one really knows me!” or “Why does everyone always misunderstand me?” Or, of course, it can be expressed as deep loneliness: “I’ll never fit in,” and “Why can’t I make friends like she does?”
Because we are made in God’s image, we are hardwired to love oneness and fear and despise isolation. It’s in our DNA, which is one of the reasons that we’re always hoping to find it in relationships or experiences, why we’re hoping to get off that dark stage. The fact that even unbelievers love being united with others with a common goal is testimony to that. Need an example? Think NFL. Sixty thousand strangers uniting together in one place to cheer their team on to victory in one voice. There’s something more enjoyable about actually being there with others than simply watching it on TV at home alone, isn’t there? It’s the experience of being a part of something bigger than ourselves and being a part of it with others. I’m no fan of the NFL, but I understand the joys of cheering with thousands of other people in unity.
Sin has wrought devastation and isolation in all our lives. Our experience of sin, our own and others’ against us, has brought separation and alienation to all of us. This separation and alienation originates in our broken relationship with God and flows out from there into broken relationships with one another and even with the created world. No matter how popular we might be, none of us has ever experienced deep unity or authentic union with another. Since the day that our forefather and mother were exiled out of the garden of Eden, we’ve been lost, trying to get back in, trying to find oneness with each other and the Lord, trying to find communion, our way home. We’ve been trying to be found. The truth is that without Christ, we are utterly alone, and our attempts to fill our hours with goodies or texting or work or even ministry are simply futile attempts to assure ourselves that things aren’t so bad after all. But at the end of the day, in the middle of the night, and at the end of our lives, without the love and work of Jesus Christ, the God-man, we are alone and we know it—and it terrifies us. Every one of us is standing on that darkened stage, condemned, lost and wandering, needing to be found.
But God has taken action. He became man, becoming one with us so that we would not have to live in deep solitude any longer—and his action opens the door not only to deep communion with him but also with one another. Yet most of us, even though we’re Christians, are unaware of the importance of our oneness with Christ (commonly called “union”) and his amazing oneness with us (known as the “incarnation”). I suspect that, for most of us, the nearness, or imminence, of Jesus barely enters our consciousness as we face the vicissitudes of daily life on that darkened stage. We neglect the doctrines of incarnation and union to our own deep impoverishment. It’s a sad reality that many Christians spend their entire lives wandering around a spiritual wilderness, malnourished, thirsting, and consuming rubbish because they have never feasted on the soul-consoling, heart-transforming, zeal-engendering truth found in the study of the incarnation and union. These joyful doctrines come directly to us from the one from whom we were estranged, and who alone offers the only antidote to the isolation pandemic we’re hoping to escape. He offers us this antidote because he has united in himself both God and man, making one new and completely unique Person, and has united believers with himself, with that Person. We will never know how found, loved, welcomed, and reconciled we are until we see how he has forever taken our nature to himself and has bound us to himself in enduring oneness. God is one with man in Jesus Christ, and we are one with him.
Content adapted from Found in Him by Elyse Fitzpatrick, ©2013.
Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.