By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 1, 2017
The last time I lived alone I was teaching philosophy at Georgia Tech and inhabiting an upstairs apartment in a ramshackle house, with my cat Funky as my companion.
I hated solitary living with every fiber of my being, but it wasn’t long before I got married, which nicely solved the dilemma.
Even as a married woman, though, I still spent hours each day alone doing research, but with the comforting knowledge that once my work was done, my husband was waiting for me.
Fast forward three decades—and somehow I’m a widow, living all alone with another cat. I still combat the demon of loneliness, but things are different this time around.
You see, in the old days, I was an atheist, so the belief that someone would bless me with the graces needed to survive was foreign to me.
Now, I’m slowly making my way forward, moment by moment, prayer by prayer, tear by tear—but still struggling.
As a writer, I require long stretches of quiet time, which solitary living provides—although if you listen carefully enough, you hear a symphony of little voices.
Right now, branches are shifting in the wind, as a mockingbird performs a lovely recital.
And every morning, before sunrise, there’s a tentative meow outside my bedroom door, as if my cat is asking, “Are you up yet?”
Solitude calls you to realize your utter dependence on God, especially when you hear something stirring at 3 a.m.—and it’s not your cat—and your only prayer is, “Lord, help!”
Since my present situation isn’t something I ever imagined I’d face again—there are days when I don’t think I can bear it another minute.
Gerald Vann writes in “The Devil and How to Resist Him,” “If we find ourselves afflicted with loneliness, we might do well to think of it as God’s attempt to give us … a solitude we should not wish to achieve for ourselves.”
He suggests we turn to God “instead of bemoaning our lack of human companionship.”
And the result? “It may be that great things will be done in us which we would otherwise, in the clatter of human conversation, have been incapable of receiving.”
Jesus himself faced the solitude of the desert, and later, when he was undergoing the greatest crisis of his life—in the garden—he was alone.
He surrendered himself entirely to God’s will—an act so gut-wrenchingly painful that his sweat turned into blood.
We can surrender too, whenever we’re tempted to grab the reins away from God.
My prayer is this: “Dear Lord, I surrender everything to you: my past, my future, my present, my hopes, my dreams, my fears.
“I give you my regrets, my doubts, my longings, my loneliness, my joys. I surrender my talents, my faults, my grudges, my resentments, my heart, my mind, my soul.”
It’s easy to trick ourselves into believing we’ve surrendered—when in truth we’re still seizing control from God.
Maybe you remember a game from childhood where you were expected to fall backwards and someone would catch you. Well, I couldn’t do it because, frankly, I never trusted anyone that much.
In “He Leadeth Me,” Father Walter Ciszek writes, “We are afraid to abandon ourselves totally into God’s hands for fear he will not catch us as we fall.”
Abandoning ourselves to God means trusting him, absolutely, and therein lies the problem. Haven’t some of the greatest saints led lives of terrible suffering? Will God demand that of us as well?
Wouldn’t it be better to remain the captain of our ship, the navigator of the boat? A ridiculous question, of course, because in truth, we’re not in control now—and never have been.
Surrendering means taking a long look in the mirror and acknowledging we have absolutely no idea what will happen one minute from now.
And trusting God means acknowledging that even if the world comes crashing down around us—and we end up facing our worst nightmare—he’ll help us combat the demons that stalk us in the darkest hours of the night.
It’s as simple as that—and the hardest thing in the whole world.
Artwork (oil on canvas, “Prom Night”) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s latest book is “Death Dons a Mask,” the third in her trilogy of Francesca Bibbo mysteries. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.