By Sally Clarkson, Joy Clarkson and Sarah Clarkson
Am I Lovable?
Loneliness is a fundamental reality of the human condition. The problem of loneliness is as old as Eden, etched into the very fabric of what it means to be fallen human beings. We are lonely because we live in this broken place, separated from God and each other by sin and sorrow, by grief and struggle. Loneliness is a theological problem, and it’s one that each of us has to face for ourselves. We have to delve deep into our core beliefs—about ourselves, about grace, about God’s love and our worth—if we are ever to be people capable of giving love, as well as receiving it.
In the beginning—in God’s perfect beginning—we were created to live in unbroken harmony with our Creator and with each other, giving our hearts and selves fully to each other, knowing each other wholly. Sin meant a total break in that joyous relationship. In theological terms, sin is actually defined as incurvatus in se, the self turned inward upon itself, seeking only its own gain instead of living outwards in love and connection with others. The fallenness of the world means that each of us experiences an essential loneliness, a deep sense of separation from each other, of being isolated and even unlovable. Ultimately, what we grieve is separation from the love that created us. Of course we are lonely.
We are also healed of that fundamental loneliness in Christ. He is the divine Lover whose gift of himself to humankind healed our isolation and drew us back into fellowship. The whole gospel is, in its way, the tale of loneliness being turned backwards, of isolation defeated by the very presence of the God who is now with us. But this is one more of those now-and-not-yet realities that come with the fact that we are redeemed and healed in Christ, and yet … we still live in the broken place. Loneliness is still pervasive in human experience because until Christ returns, we’ll continue to live in this fallen world, where sin and suffering have shaped the whole of human life.
The voice we hear naturally in our hearts is one of condemnation: You’re impossible to love. You’re too difficult. You’ll always be lonely. You’re not worth attention. And often that voice has been affirmed by the rejection or hatred we have known in the broken relationships of our lives. We bring deep wounds to our attempts at friendship, wounds that create an inner narrative of profound insecurity. What does that look like? For me, a series of petty friends and group rejection meant an increasing sense of doubt about my own worth that made every interaction with a possible new friend a torture. Even as I sought to connect, I was battered by an inner sense that I was ugly or ridiculous, that I’d said the wrong thing, that the other person found me too quiet, too wordy, too—well, it could be any number of things. Insecurity meant that every conversation became a space in which I was asking someone to answer the question “Am I lovable?” But no human could sufficiently answer that question, because I had already judged myself unworthy.
Those voices of loneliness are just one aspect of a fallen world working its hurt deeply into our lives. The difference—now that Christ has come into the world, his love kindling right amid the darkness in our hearts—is that loneliness no longer has the final word. Love has a new story to tell us, one that can define the whole of our existence and renew our capacity for relationship. The catch is that we have to learn to listen for the voice of love as it speaks healing into our hearts, calling us out of isolation and into our identity as those who are deeply beloved.
When we know that we are loved, we are ready to not just find a friend, but to be one. That’s why we begin with our loneliness. In the silence of our fear, our need, our unmet hope, we face the worst. But a still, small voice sounds even there, the one voice that can set our hungry hearts at rest, the voice that teaches us how to be the friends and companions we so desire to find. And that’s where real friendship begins. It’s the only place it can.
Adapted from Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World by Sally Clarkson, Joy Clarkson, and Sarah Clarkson, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.