Henri Nouwen’s From Fear to Love offered this on Friday as a Lenten devotional.
“It is important to learn to move from a “first loneliness” to a “second loneliness”. The first loneliness is a kind of emotional loneliness: needing friends, family, and home. But when all those needs are more or less met, you learn there is second loneliness. God is calling you to deep, personal intimacy, an intimacy that is wonderful and very demanding. God asks you to let go of many things that are emotionally, intellectually and affectively very satisfying. You must grow into the trust that this deeper loneliness is not to be overcome, but lived. You must live it with trust, standing tall. You must try to say, “yes, I am lonely, but this particular loneliness sets me on the road to intimacy with God. It does not pull me away from God or my deepest self, but brings me closer to the source of love in the depths of my being.
It’s very important for us to dare to welcome the fullness of our second loneliness because it relates to the oldest mystical traditions about the spiritual journey. The ‘dark night of the soul’ is another expression of the second loneliness. In a way, this loneliness opens us to personally know the true God. When we touch the darkness we know that God cannot be owned or grasped within the affections of the human heart. God is greater than our hearts, greater than our minds, always alive, always longing for a response.
O everlasting God, lead me from fear to love and from loneliness to communion with you.”
He has captured the human condition. He is speaking about the place where such an overwhelming majority of people find themselves. They have, but feel as though they are empty. They are in relationship — often with more people than they can keep up with, really — but can go long lengths of time without connecting deeply with anyone.
Oh, to find a place where this is talked about, and confronted. Where people are real, and push you to be real, as well. Oh, to be a part of something larger than yourself, to be found in the embrace of God and in connection with people who are similarly embraced. Oh, to be in the Church.