Though I am single, I spend a lot of time with people every day.
I work at a company of about 130 employees; I sit in a cubicle, but I run into people at meetings, in the lunch room, even in the bathroom. I am with people everywhere I go.
When I go to the gym after work, I exercise next to people, though they are strangers. I shop in crowded grocery stores. I drive on streets surrounded by other people speeding by in their cars.
In the evenings, I go to meetings at my church or to dinners with my friends. Often I invite people to my home or meet them at Starbucks for coffee. On the weekends, I visit family or go to movies with friends.
But at night, when I change into pajamas and brush my teeth, when I pull down the covers and fluff the pillows, when I kick off my slippers and swing my legs around, at night when I go to bed, I am always alone.
As I finish the first week of my nighttime fast
, the ritual of bedtime is slowly becoming a habit. I have had to leave social gatherings early; I have had to hurry my puppy, Tilly, along in her final visit to the back yard; and I have even had to put down a book right in the middle of a chapter. These are changes, to be sure, but I am growing accustomed to them.
What has been the most difficult part of an early bedtime, however, is the daily reminder that when I crawl into bed, I am alone.
Sunday night, I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of a man’s voice. Of course I was startled, and assuming that someone was trying to get into the house, I grabbed my cell phone and began peering through windows and peaking out doors. I was planning to call 911 at the first sight of a shadow or the first crackle of leaves.
But after making my way throughout the house, gazing out into the moonlight on every side, I decided I must be crazy. The walk back down the hall, across the dining room and kitchen, and into my bedroom was a long one, though. When I finally got back to my room, I grudgingly got back into bed. Alone again, and now scared.
As I lay there trying to find my way back to sleep, I recalled the sermon
from that morning. My pastor was preaching from Matthew on the Garden of Gethsamane. He spoke about the familiar scene of the disciples sleeping, our Lord agonizing, and the Sanhedrin plotting. Pastor Mark used the passage to teach us about prayer and about God’s will. But he ended with a note to the lonely among us, to the loneliness in us all.
“This is an important text when you feel all alone, like no one understands, and when your closest friends don’t ‘get it,'” he explained. “[Jesus] faced the loneliest moment in the universe so that you’d always know that you are never really alone.”
I was thinking of Jesus, then, as I willed myself back to sleep, imagining that if I were in the Garden with Peter, James, and John, I couldn’t have kept myself from nodding off. Eventually, I began to lose myself again, sinking into the darkness of the night. And in those moments just before I lost all consciousness, I heard the voice again. Only this time I knew it was not coming from outside the window. It was there in my dream.
I was not alone after all.