Truth: Disappointment.

As a child I received my fair share of spankings.  My parents never doled them out in anger and rarely did they act in the moment.  And they never truly hurt – the mere thought of the punishment was what caused me to cry – getting caught was never a happy moment.  While spanking was a good punishment for a time, the act ended when I started laughing as my mom was spanking me and she discovered I had placed magazines in my pants to ease the blows.  My punishments shifted to having my Gameboy taken away, being sent to my room, or denied having friends over to play.

These acts were certainly good for my attitude and were well-deserved, but honestly they were fairly rare for me as I was a pretty decent kid.  When I did mess up, I would end up having a talk with either one of my parents and then the hammer would fall in judgement.

In my final years of high school, my parents began to use the most detrimental punishment of all: “We’re really disappointed in the way you acted.”  There was no consequence, no physical punishment, no spanking – just that sentence.  And it truthfully hurt me more than any other punishment I had experienced.  If I messed up or did something wrong, they’d tell me that they were disappointed by my actions and then leave me alone.  And my heart would break.

I believe my parents – either when they were spanking me, grounding me, or speaking truths into my life – were not disappointed in me, but disappointed by my actions.  They knew that I knew better, yet I chose to not be better.  I knew not to swear or yell or lash out in anger, but I did.  I knew that there were certain people I shouldn’t hang out with, but I did.  I knew not to smoke, drink or chew (or go with girls that do), but I did.   My short-term vision couldn’t see the long-term danger of these people, actions, and things.


When it comes to my spiritual life, I think God is oftentimes disappointed in my actions.  God knows I can do better.  God knows I can be better.  God knows that I know better.  But sometimes I choose to not do what I should.  Nothing I do surprises God, but when I make those choices they bring disappointment with them.  Like my parents, God isn’t disappointed with me, but is disappointed with my choices.

Life is challenging, difficult, and filled with all kinds of ways for us to slip up and miss the mark.  God wants us to be good, decent, loving, kind, generous, and forgiving but knows we’ll screw up on occasion.  More often than not, we will do the things we know we shouldn’t.  But we should always remember that God loves us and wants only the best for us.

May God give us the ability to learn from our mistakes, and never wallow in disappointment, but get back up and try to be better.  May we generously and lovingly forgive when others disappoint us.  May we know that God loves us and is never disappointed in us, but in our poor choices and actions.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Hidden.

The church I’m attending is doing a summer series titled “Hidden Figures” – it’s about the small, not-well-known people in the Bible who have had major impacts on the people around them.  I haven’t thought about most of these people – Micah of Moresheth, Ananias, the daughters of Zelophehad (and others) – but they’ve had lasting impact on the formation of my faith and that of my Church.

As I’ve been thinking about these hidden figures, I’ve been reflecting on those hidden figures in my own life – the people who have had a lasting impact on who I am (and who I’m becoming).  People who, at the time, I didn’t know were molding and shaping me into the person I would become.

The teacher’s aides who tutored me when the teacher was too busy for me.
The lunch ladies who gave me free meals when I forgot my money.
The elderly couple who took my brother and I to eat at the fanciest restaurant we’d ever been to (they had live lobsters – a big deal for a 9 year old).
The twenty-something who took time to mentor me and take me to Elitch’s.
The old ladies who bought me lunch after church and check in on me.
These were all little things that people chose to do for me that stuck with me, showed me I was valued and loved, and taught me that I should do the same.


There’s this verse in Hebrews, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2, NIV).  I think it could be reworded: “Do not forget that strangers, in showing you hospitality, are angels and you didn’t even know it.”  The truth is, most of these hidden figures in my life were angels for me.  They gave me hope that I was smart enough and I could learn my multiplication tables.  They showed me that I won’t ever go hungry if they’re around.  They gave me something good and nice for no reason at all, other than because they loved me.  They knew the importance of guidance, mentorship, and discipleship.  They let me know that I was valued and visible to them.

I should acknowledge the people who do so many small things for me that I don’t fully recognize as being impactful in the moment.  The janitors, housekeepers, and groundskeepers who maintain the facilities around me and keep me safe and healthy.  The administrative assistants and secretaries and finance office people who do all the paperwork to keep things running.  The nurses and assistants who do 99% of the actual work in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  The people who send me cards in the mail just because they were thinking about me.

And I should also keep in mind that I may be someone’s hidden figure.  I may not always know it, I may not always intentionally be doing something, but I will nevertheless have a lasting impact on most of the people I come across.  I need to be mindful of my actions, my thoughts, and my words and be as loving as I can possibly be to all the people I meet.

May we all see the hidden figures who have made us who we are today.  May we be thankful for those who have had positive impacts on us and forgiving of those who have had negative impacts on us.  May we have eyes to be more aware of those around us who are hidden in our day-to-day lives and acknowledge their impact on us today.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Pets.

One of my friends has had to say goodbye of two of her elderly dogs over the past few months, and it’s heartbreaking for me to see her go through this – I ache for her and the losses she has had to deal with amid school finals and life’s never-ending messes. I wish I could make her dogs live forever, or at the very least I wish I could spread out the losses. Many people here at seminary think I’m not a pet-friendly person, but that’s not the case. I love pets dearly – it’s saying goodbye to them that I don’t like, and to guard my heart I put up my stalwart stance.

My family picked up our dog Sunshine when I was four or five and she was a constant in my life over the next decade. She would play with my brother and I in the backyard, stealing our baseballs and chasing our snowballs. She went with us on our family vacations to the Sand Dunes, Blue Mesa, Grand Mesa, and my grandparents’ property in Coaldale. She moved with us to three different homes, was terrified of fireworks, and was always ready to greet me at the door when I came home.


As the years went on, her muscle mass deteriorated and had facial paralysis – we eventually had to put her to sleep. It was a decision my parents made, though they asked me if I wanted to skip school and go with them, but I couldn’t do it. I remember that day vividly as I walked to school and my parents drove to the vet – my mind was cycling through all the memories I had of Sunshine and me playing together.

We picked up Josie from the shelter in Buena Vista a few years later, and while she wasn’t a replacement, she lived up to the paw prints left by Sunshine. She was a pit bull/ rottweiler/ something-else mix, and while she looked intimidating, she was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever come across. She was a little goofy, a little ditzy, but full of love and affection. She performed zoomies with perfection, was intimidated by statues, would wiggle her tail-less butt with excitement, and rarely would she bark out of fear or anger.


I left for college and she was ready to greet me each time I returned home. When I was depressed and contemplating suicide, Josie was there by my side. When I was watching the terrorist attacks in 2001 and getting ready to fearfully travel overseas, Josie was there with me as I packed my bags. In all the chaos of my early 20-somethings, she was by my side. While I was living in Greeley, my mom called to tell me that Josie had gone to sleep the night before but never woke up. I was just as devastated as I was with Sunshine, and I grieved just as fiercely.

The truth is, I love pets. I loved all the pets that I’ve had in my life: dogs, cats, birds, a ferret, hamsters, and a myriad of goldfish. I loved all the pets that my brother has had: the big dogs, the herding dogs, the little dogs; the goats, cows, and horses. I love all the pets that are around me currently: Scooter, Muji, Mylo, Cooper (x2), Winnie, Blanche, Loveern, Shiloh, Potter, Radar, Kodac, Migelito and all the other dogs and cats, squirrels, frogs, and birds who reside on campus.

I love pets – it’s the end of their lives that I don’t like and what I guard against. I don’t like the hurt and pain and emptiness that comes when they leave. I don’t like the tears and crying that I end up doing because they’re gone. I don’t like missing my best friends and constant companions for years after they’ve left. I don’t like losing pets, which is why I guard my heart against the inevitable ache.

Thank God for pets: for their love and compassion towards us when we are so undeserving of it. Thank God for pets: for always giving us a moment of joy, a time of happiness, an ear of understanding. Thank God for pets: the better being in the relationship time and time again.

Thank God for pets.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Great Things

The graduating seniors were recognized at lunch today – it was a moment to laugh, smile, cry, and dream.  We watched a slideshow of their time here on campus, there were ‘Senior Wills’ (objects and programs passed on to underclassmen), and we celebrated the upcoming commencement.

A phrase about the seniors was said: “they’re going to do great things”.  This caught the ear of my classmate, who hopes the same isn’t said of our class.  Because ‘great things’ is a pretty lofty goal – a high, nearly unreachable point that many of us will never achieve.  Most of us will never be the Stated Clerk for the denomination.  Most of us will never be a best-selling author.  Most of us will never be pastors of a mega church.  Most of us will never lead the National Day of Prayer Breakfast, preach in a stadium, or lead a conference with thousands of attendees.

Most of us will never do these ‘great’ things.  And perhaps we shouldn’t aim for them, either.  There’s too much pressure in this world to do great things: we must have the greatest Instagram photo of the best meal at the best restaurant.  We must be the best and greatest friend, wife, boyfriend, partner, or student.  We must change lives and make a real, tangible difference.  We must always be present, with a cheery disposition and a kind word at the ready.

I don’t think we need to aim for doing great things because then we’re aiming for greatness – we’re striving after recognition, not selflessness.  We don’t need to aim for great things because there’s plenty of ordinary, little things that need to be done.  The great things get accolades, money, and fame.  But the little things, the real things, the things we can do, are the things we should do.


Today at lunch another student and I received the Alice Phiri Award, which in part “acknowledges an enrolled student who gives above and beyond to help…helping others without the thought of compensation or accolades.”  I am humbled and astonished to be the recipient and it baffles me that I was actually even nominated.  I can’t thank Karen, Leslie, Lauraine, Emily, and Christy enough for thinking of me and taking the time to throw my name into the ring.

Truthfully it’s a somewhat difficult award to accept because it’s an acknowledgement of my actions, for which I didn’t want or expect to be acknowledged.  It’s wonderful to have people say that they actually see what I’m doing and are touched by what I do, but it’s never been my intention to achieve recognition.  I’m never aiming for doing great things.  I’m never aiming for recognition.  I’m aiming to be Christ in this world (and I fail at this often) by helping others, by listening and being present, by commiserating and crying and hugging and laughing.  I’m aiming to be a servant and a giver, to walk humbly and gently in this world.

When I was a kid we would frequently have potlucks at church and my pastor would always be the last one to go through the line.  Rodger would chat and hang out near the food table while smiling, laughing, and talking as we filed along, and he made sure everyone else was fed before he would load up his plate.  Without complaint he would pile on the undesirables of the potluck table and eat with a genuine smile on his face and joy in his heart.  It was in Rodger’s little action thirty-something years ago that I began to understand that doing great things weren’t necessary or needed in this world.

We have enough people aiming for great things.  Why don’t we start aiming for the attainable?  We need more people digging into the day-to-day dirtiness of life, helping other people when they’re at their lowest, at their middle-est, at their highest.  We need people who are willing to walk through the muck and mire of life with other people.  We need people who are okay with never doing ‘great things’ or achieving recognition.  We need people like Christ.

Through God’s grace and strength, may you do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.¹

much love. sheth.


1. Turns out that John Wesley did not say this, which is why I didn’t quote him.  You can read more here or here.

Truth: Alcohol.

I was 9 or 10 years old when I first tasted an alcoholic beverage: a sip of my parents’ red wine at the Black Angus Steakhouse.  It’s bitterness was not pleasing to my uncultured taste buds.  The next time I drank an alcoholic beverage was in the summer before my junior year of high school (I can no longer drink Coors).  After those wild nights I drank occasionally during my senior year when my older friends were home from college.  I went to college and spent a good portion of my first semester with Jack Daniels and Coke.

My inability to control alcohol – and myself – ruined my undergrad work and left me on academic probation (it’s really hard to dig out of a 1.7 GPA).  Alcohol’s inhibition-relaxing properties led me into questionable circumstances and poor choices.  Alcohol wreaked havoc on my body and I’ve spent countless hours on bathroom floors and wasted days afterwards recovering.


Yes, I still drink, though I’m more responsible with it.  A glass of red wine with some steak?  Yes, please.  A cocktail with friends on Friday night?  I’m in.  A margarita and a chimichanga?  Sign me up.  Beer and BBQ?  Save me a seat.  Don’t get me wrong, I still make errors in judgment and am far from having a clean record of sobriety.  While I’m not an alcoholic, I know all too well the pain and misery that it can cause.  Truthfully, alcohol scares me.

It scares me because it’s held many family members in its grasp and caused untold amounts of pain and grief, and I know it can easily do the same for me.  It scares me because as a child I heard my dad spend too many hours helping people sober up in our kitchen late at night.

It scares me because of my addictive personality – if I like something, I’m going to keep doing it, no matter how good or bad it is for me – and alcohol can take me quickly.  It scares me because I have friends who can’t conquer alcohol, and all I can do is sit back and wait for them to hit rock bottom before I can do anything.

I’m not opposed to alcohol.  I’m opposed to letting it rule one’s life.  I’m opposed to using it as a crutch.  I’m opposed to using it as a game.  I’m opposed to needing it.

As easy as it is to open up a bottle, it’s just as easy to lose control and have it run you over.  I get it, I know it, I’ve seen it.  Our lives are meant for so much more than what a beverage can give us.  We have so much more courage than what we may think we gain with a glass or two.  We are much better people than who we perceive we are when we’re drunk.  We’re so much more than what alcohol makes us think we are.

May God give us mercy when we over-do and may we learn from our mistakes.  May God give us clarity to see when we have a problem and the courage to conquer it.  May God give us strength as we love those in the clutches of alcoholism.

much love. sheth.


If you think you need help, talk to a trusted friend, co-worker, pastor, or family member.  If that’s too much, check out Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, or Women For Sobriety to see how they can help you find a meeting nearby.

If someone you know or someone you love is struggling with alcohol, there are resources out there for you, too.  Check out Al Anon or for more guidance.

Truth: Miles and Miles

I went for a walk yesterday with Chelsea May, and we managed to cover a little over two miles as we meandered through the University of Texas’ campus. Our internal odometers, though, suggested that we had traveled much, much further.

This is something I have experienced many times in my wandering about in nature. When I’m out hiking or hunting, I assume that I’ve just conquered at least a dozen or so miles and feel accomplished until I map out my route and see that my perceived number was way off. It’s a humbling moment because I think I’ve gone so far but I have yet to put up any real numbers. It can be depressing and frustrating (especially when my legs are aching), but it can also be an opportunity to realize how much further I could have gone, and can go in the future.

I was recently ruminating with a classmate about how I had wasted the last twenty years, wandering through life and not making any real progress or movement forward. Honestly it can be a little discouraging to be surrounded by people much younger than I who have done so much more with their lives and have a set trajectory for their futures. They have had a plan since high school and have been working diligently toward their goals.

I can vividly remember discussing my dreams of being a youth pastor with a woman at my church as I clearly articulated my desire to help people, guide teens, and share God’s love with the world. While I had these plans, I also had setbacks: minor indiscretions leading toward lifetime commitments; taking advice from poor counsel; listening to the don’t and shouldn’t; taking the safe and easy path because it was safe and easy. As I reflect on my life and the 39 years I’ve experienced, I think I’ve put in a lot of time. I’ve accomplished a lot but don’t have a lot to show for it. I’ve think I’ve put in a lot of miles, but haven’t traveled very far.

The good thing is that my perception is off. Just like my venture through the UT campus, my journey through life has not been as long and toilsome as I think it is. No doubt I’ve put in some miles in my life: I’ve been places, seen things, done a lot, and survived it all. But the best part of it is that I’m not done.

I’m not done.

I still have a journey ahead of me. I still have things to accomplish. I still have a vocation calling me and I can still heed that call. Those rabbit trails in my life were not setbacks or failures – they were experiences that gave me a greater understanding of the world, of life, and of God’s undying, unconditional love.

May we travel far, may we experience much, and may we diligently follow the course set before us as best we can. And when we venture off course, may we lean on the knowledge of God’s sovereignty to bring us back.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Social Media

I am not a good user of Facebook.  I don’t often update my photos, and when I do I usually delete the old photo.  I don’t change my status – lately it’s just been links to my blog.  I rarely ‘like’ someone’s posts and I even more rarely comment on them.  I don’t send friend requests, I don’t click on ads, I don’t follow social media stars, and I rarely join groups.  I am the poster-child for poor social media presence.

My lack of use is partially because I don’t really care to do any of it, and part of it is because I don’t see the point in it – especially with commenting.  I am amazed at the number of people who choose to comment on Facebook posts and it intrigues me when a comment is made on a post that has zero connection to the commenter.  When I’m scrolling through Facebook I may see a picture and think, Ha! That is true! or Well, that’s completely false.  Rarely do I stop, pull up my keyboard, and go to town on the various points as to why it’s a lie or why it made me laugh.

A few months back a friend of mine posted about how he was feeling diminished as a person and people still treated him horribly even though he has just as many rights as the next individual.  Because it’s just a thing I do, I wanted to uplift and encourage him, so I offered words of hope and reminded him that he is valued and cherished.

As with most Facebook postings, someone commented on my comment and said that my words weren’t necessary because our mutual friend already knew these things.  This person went on to say that it was a larger issue and work needed to be done to fix the problems that perpetuate people’s thinking about race, culture, and ethnicity.  They tried to engage me several times to discuss their points and why I was incorrect.

I just wanted to be nice to my friend.

While I wanted to offer some encouragement, both me and my comment were both mowed down by calls against systemic racism and perpetual injustices.  While yes, we do need to stand up against these things, I know that I wasn’t wrong in my initial comment.  My friend needed to be reminded of who he is and that he is valued.


There are a few things I’m taking away from this situation:

  1. I need to recognize and acknowledge that some people are going to want to argue, no matter what. They’re always going to be holding up the banners against injustice, against tyranny, against systemic issues, no matter the context or discussion.  We need those people in this world and I need to help those people use their skills in real-life communications.
  2. I have a valuable part in this work. While I am not the up-front talker, I can be the behind-the-scenes person who supports others and I’m just as valuable as they are.  I don’t have to march, protest, or argue all the time – especially if it’s not what I’m good at.  But I should do what I can to help people who are good at those things.
  3. Words of encouragement are always – always – helpful and necessary.

It’s easy to get on social media to call out wrongs and argue away at the issues.  It’s much more difficult to hold our tongues and scroll on by.  I think it would benefit us all if we did the latter, and I think it would be even better if we chose to have those discussions in person.  May God give us patience with one another, may we know when to speak up, and above all else, may we always love and encourage one another.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Anger

Either asking me or those closest to me, people often wonder if I ever get angry.  I usually respond by repeating a line from the old T.V. show The Incredible Hulk: “You won’t like me when I’m angry.”  While kind of cool and mysterious, it’s also an ashamedly apt descriptor of what people feel when I’m angry.  While I have yet to meet anyone whom I like when they are angry, I despise myself in those moments because the worst part of who I am comes out.

The truth is that I don’t know how to deal with my anger which is why so few people have witnessed me in that emotion, and why I don’t often express it.  And just like any emotion, if it’s not utilized, it can be destructive when it rears its head.  On those rare occasions when I do pop the top on my bottled up anger, it all comes out.  I’m like a bottle of Coke and a Mentos has just been dropped in.  Everything that has been making me angry since the last explosion comes raging out of my mouth, and God help the people who are around me in that moment.

I usually start with the immediate thing that set off the chain reaction and in an extended rant, I use every foul adjective I can come up with to describe it all.  And then the stuff that’s been hiding comes spewing out: that thing that happened yesterday; that person that cut me off in traffic last week; the time a fellow student said something ridiculous in class.  I don’t always know where this stuff is coming from and am often surprised by all the hidden history that exudes from my mouth.  When all is said and done and I’m exhausted – mentally and emotionally – I put the cap back on the bottle and go on with my life.

I’m not proud of the things that I say when this happens, and I’m definitely not proud that I don’t have a better handle on this emotion.  I often wonder if I don’t express my anger because I don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings or if I bottle it up because anger isn’t an attractive personality trait.  I wonder if anger is ‘Christian’ (whatever that means) or if I hold it back because I know how ugly I get and don’t want to subject others to my tirades.


If I’m to be wholly ‘me’ and all that I am, I have to recognize that anger is part of me.  I think it’s part of all of us – it’s a God-given emotion.  But it’s how we deal with it, how we act it out, how we use it that makes it either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Anger can be a good thing and is a valid emotion that can produce good and useful outcomes: MLK and civil rights, Gandhi and Indian Independence, the 1968 Prague Spring.

I’m reminded of Ephesians 4:25-26: “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…”  We are given the opportunity to be angry, though it is followed by one condition – do not sin.  We should always speak the truth with whomever we are with, and we can be angry (if warranted), but we shouldn’t sin in the process.

In my anger I sin because I don’t speak truthfully to my neighbor.  I don’t voice my anger at what they are doing and allow the offense to continue.  In my anger I sin because I direct my anger at the person and not at the content which made me angry: You’re making me angry! vs. Your action is making me angry.

I think it’s important to understand this small distinction because it keeps anger from being hurtful: be angry at the offense, not the offender.  Be angry at the systems, not at those people in power.  Be angry at the issue, not those around it.  We can be angry at what we do to one other, and it should be called out and resolved, but we should cover those offenses with love after they’ve been dealt with.

In no way am I saying that this is easy.  In no way am I saying that I’m going to do this correctly from here on out.  But I’m going to try.  I’m going to call out what angers me, tell those around the situation that it angers me, and I’m going to direct my energy toward fixing it.  And I’m going to love…as much as I can, I’m going to love.

much love. sheth.

Truth: 4 pm

When I went through a very difficult period of my life I ended up taking anti-depressants, and they were a valuable part of my life for a time.  While they kept me from feeling depressed and sad, they actually kept me from feeling much of anything.  I wasn’t depressed (which was good), but I wasn’t happy, either…I wasn’t much of anything.

I took that medication for a time and when I came off of it I was greeted with all kinds of feelings that I had forgotten about.  Laughter was from my soul; happiness was found in the oddest of places; coffee commercials made me cry.  I had all these rediscovered feelings and I was unsure if I was ‘doing’ them correctly.


And I didn’t always know how to name what I was feeling.  I ended up using a ‘feelings wheel’ like the one above.  It lists all kinds of words for feelings and emotions, and it was helpful to pinpoint exactly what was going on within me.

Last week I briefly spoke with my mom and amid the conversation she asked if I was feeling okay.  She commented that I didn’t sound well and was concerned for me.  I admitted that I was fine – and I was – and we continued our quick check-in.

I told the truth to my mom because I am fine.  Things are good.  School is busy but useful and I’m gaining knowledge and wisdom.  My jobs on campus are keeping me busy and I think I’m doing good things through them.  My relationships are steady and I have many good friends that keep me entertained, engaged, and satisfied.  Honestly, life is fine and good.  But there’s been something not quite right and I haven’t been able to identify it.

This morning I went to chapel and it was a good service.  We sang songs, we prayed, and we heard the sermon – it was chapel in all its goodness.   As Dr. Rigby finished the liturgy for the Table, she said something along the lines of, “Come, eat, the table is set” and in that moment a small voice in my head said …but…but, I’m not hungry...

It was at that moment that I realized what I’ve been feeling, or, in my case, what I haven’t been feeling: I’m not hungry.  My life feels like 4 pm – lunch has been eaten and is nearly forgotten and yet I’m not hungry for dinner, either.  I’m not excited for what’s next, and I’m not able to enjoy what had come before.

Life is good, things are going as planned, and I’m doing all the correct things, but I’m not hungry.  I’m making decent grades, in a great relationship, and have a healthy social life, but I’m not hungry.  Life is far from routine, I’m doing unexpected things, and I’m satisfied.  But I’m not hungry.

I’m not hungry for my future, for what may come next, for where I’m going.  I’m not hungry to help others, to serve those around me, to love my neighbor.  I’m not hungry to learn more about God, about the scriptures, about why I’m here.  I’m not hungry.

I think it’s more than okay to not be hungry, but it’s a little disconcerting that I am not expecting another meal in the future.  I don’t know what my next meal is going to be or where it will come from; I don’t entirely remember what my last meal tasted like or how satisfying it was.  I’m kind of in this limbo right now, this 4 pm of life, and it’s not bad, but it’s not entirely good.

God, grow in me a deep hunger, a deep desire for more.  May my life rumble and grumble with expectation for the coming meal, and may I once again find that desire for more than what I have had.

much love. sheth.


P.S. – Seriously, I’m good…I’m fine…just wanting to be hungry.

Truth: Long, Dark Nights.

This Friday, the sun will set in Austin at 5:34 pm, and will not rise until 7:23 am on Saturday – roughly ten hours of daylight and fourteen hours of darkness. The longest, darkest night of the year.

We’re told through advertisements and tradition that during Christmas we are supposed to be happy, full of joy, and surrounded by family and friends. But many of us are dealing with other emotions: grief, loneliness, depression, disappointment, and anxiety. Many of us attempt to push down and put aside these feelings, trying to mask them over with the season’s joy and happiness. But the feelings are still there, still prevalent and intertwined in our lives.

For me, loneliness is one of the biggies in my life this time of year. Some people think that my loneliness means that I am alone. Sometimes that’s a good thing – we need to be alone, to be by ourselves and away from people, but that’s not loneliness, that’s solitude. Loneliness is deeper than that. Loneliness is darker than that. For me, it’s like sitting in a room at night by yourself and feeling like it will never become light again. It’s being invisible in a room full of people.

If you’re like me, the Christmas season’s loneliness can eat away at any sort of joy we may be able to muster up.  It’s difficult because this is a season of togetherness – family and friends coming together and eating big meals, opening presents, and playing games.  And we, the lonely, may be part of these gatherings, but we feel apart from them.  There is something deep within us that is hurt.  There is something deep within us that longs for true connection.

We can put on a happy face and carry on lively conversations, but we are split within our souls because we know deep down that there is something less than happy and lively.  We smile widely for the pictures, laugh loudly at the jokes, and carry on the conversations.  But within us is another person who wants to scream out for someone to truly notice us.

In truth, our loneliness comes out of a desire for an intimate relationship with someone else.  This intimacy isn’t sexual in any way – it’s much deeper than that.  Intimacy is closeness and familiarity.  Intimacy is private and personal.  Intimacy is vulnerability.  Our loneliness cries out for intimacy on an emotional and spiritual level that most take for granted.  Our loneliness desires fulfillment from being with other people on a soul level.

Sandburg’s words ring true for us, the lonely. We would suffer hunger, pain, want, shame, and failure all for intimacy – true intimacy – with another person.

As the darkest, longest night of the year comes upon us, let us continue to cry out to God, “I am lonely and troubled! Save me from my sadness!” May God hear our cries for comfort in our loneliness, grief, depression, disappointment, and anxiety. And may we find respite on this darkest night.

[Many churches offer Blue Christmas services which recognize and speak to these issues – you can do a quick search to find one locally. If you’d like to speak with someone about these feelings, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You’ll hear an automated message that will ask a few brief questions, then your call will be routed to a local Lifeline network center where your call will be answered by a trained worker who will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and get you the help you need.]

much love. sheth.