The Press of Loneliness


Jesus knows what loneliness feels like.

I imagine he is well aware of the sound, the texture, the alkaline taste of aloneness. Loneliness colors so much of His time at the Mount of Olives. His closest friends fall asleep on Him in the midst of His deepest sorrow. His most committed followers scatter and leave Him upon His arrest. Jesus gets my loneliness.

I wear my loneliness like an under garment, always unseen yet constantly the closest thing to my skin. And like most clothing, our minds allow us to filter out its sensorial presence. But when I allow myself to perceive it the loneliness is in fact perceived. I think this is the first time I've admitted my loneliness. I'm so thick with rich community it's seems almost a travesty to admit its existence. But I'm finally coming to grips with the fact that loneliness is not about having the necessary number of key relationships in your life. I think it's something more.

I sit with so many lonely people in my practice. Most of them Millennials who are surrounded by laughing acquaintances, helicopter parents, and thousands of friends, followers, and the like on social media. But in the lightness of our day we sit in the sticky darkness of their loneliness together. And I'm honored to hold vigil with them there. Because journeying into the dark of their aloneness, bearing witness to their grief, serving as wet nurse to their tears offers rich wisdom.

For many, loneliness is a product of this age. They've grown up in a generation marked by fear. Politicians use fear to solidify their base. Advertisers use fear to peddle their useless wares. But when you grow up with that much fear in the atmosphere walls get higher, locks get stronger, and subsequently loneliness gets thicker. Along with the rise of fear this is a generation weaned on the milk of certainty. Everyone is so damn certain about everything. And with certainty comes animosity toward those who are certain about the opposing position. We've created a world of us vs. them for a generation hungry to understand and connect with the "them". This generation is also caught in the comparison trap. So many find their worth by compare themselves to others. From body types to social media acceptance, comparison is the means for worth but is also the path to superficial community. And the loneliness spreads.

It makes sense that Jesus experiences loneliness on the Mount of Olives in a place called Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane actually means place where olives are pressed. Jesus experiences profound loneliness in a place where olives are crushed and pressed under huge stones meant to extract their oils. These oils were used for lamplight, dressing wounds, for the cooking of meals. The press extracted needful things from the olive. And while I hate my loneliness and despise the hurt it causes those whom I care for, I can say if handled well loneliness can extract some useful things from us as well. The press of loneliness can foster tender hearts, and deeper character, as well as a hunger and thirst for justice. The press of loneliness can pull from us things that can light dark places, heal fresh wounds and satisfy those desperate to be fed. So I bear this grinding loneliness comforted by two things. Jesus gets the press and can use what that press gets out of me.