By Venansio Ahabwe
“Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good for Man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18a). God, in this text, clearly stresses the need for everyone to keep company with other people. Moments of loneliness always arise and are, at times, unavoidable. Someone may be alone when tilling in the garden, attending to animals, driving a car, taking a walk, preparing a meal, sitting in an office, taking a bath, waiting for customers or reading a book. It is upon the individual to choose to be alone or to get company during such moments depending on the purpose they want to achieve. Man is a social being and is thus required to live in constant interaction with other members of society but it is also necessary to take time and be alone in order to become better.
From the beginning, God said, ‘it is not good for Man to be alone’. However, this divine plan can only be placed in context to find out if it is proper for Man to be alone sometimes. Moreover, it seems that when Man (Adam) lived in the Garden of Eden, he had a close and warm relationship with the Creator, and this connection was destabilised when Adam got another human being for company. One cannot miss the personal conversation between God and Adam, which occurred even after Adam and Eve had sinned. When God turned up in the garden, He addressed Adam in a very personal manner, “Yahweh God called the man saying to him, ‘Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). It can be argued that God keeps company with every person who is alone.
Whereas some people prefer to be alone and are self-confessed ‘loners’, others are forced to be alone by circumstances. Someone may be arrested and put in a lonely cell as a punishment. A community can isolate a person they consider problematic. A parent may be abandoned by children when they live and work far away from home. A spouse may remain alone if a marriage partner dies. A patient might suffer if left without a caretaker. An unkind guardian might lock a child in a room as some media reports often show. In all these instances, and many others, loneliness is imposed and can make a person extremely miserable.
On the other hand, a person may choose to be alone and to make the best out of this situation.
Therefore, being alone is not necessarily always bad or avoidable – and Jesus Christ shows this in many ways. Soon after his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ “…stayed in the desert (alone) forty days… with wild animals but angels ministered to him” (Mark 1: 12-13). When John the Baptist was beheaded, his disciples buried his body and brought the news to Jesus. “On hearing this, Jesus set out by boat to a secluded place, to be alone” (Matthew 14:13). Very many people still followed him, which made him feed more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Once again, Jesus sent away his disciples and all the crowds and thereafter, “…he went up on the mountain…. When evening came, he was there alone…” (Matthew 14:23).
It was the habit of Jesus Christ to be a lone to pray, as recorded in Luke 5:16, “The news about Jesus spread…… crowds gathered…. But he would go away to places where he could be alone for prayer.” One time, Jesus woke up “Early in the morning, while it was still dark, went off to a lonely place where he prayed (Mark 1:35). The presence of God seems more profound when one is alone; able to listen to the gentle voice of God which lies at ease within us. Meditation and personal reflection occurs best in conditions of loneliness. Teaching on prayer, Jesus Christ said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray… in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
In the Old Testament, Moses was alone when he encountered the burning bush. He thought, “…I will go and see this amazing sight, why the bush is not burning up” (Exodus 3:3). In due course, he came into contact with God and received his mission. Almost each of the prophets – such as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos – got revelations while they were alone. Apart from a few cases such as when the Holy Spirit descended onto the apostles (Acts 2:1), many holy men and women experienced the presence of God in times of loneliness. Zechariah was alone in the sanctuary of the Lord, burning incense, when Angel Gabriel appeared to him, “…all the people were praying outside; it was then that an angel of the Lord appeared to him…. On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him” (Luke 1:10-12). Angel Gabriel also appeared to the Virgin Mary when she was alone to announce the forthcoming birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:28-38).
Paul Tullich, who is ranked as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century, says, “Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone; and it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” In one of his sermons, Tullich further says, “Man is alone because he is man! In some way every creature is alone…. Each tree grows according to its own law, fulfilling its unique possibilities. Animals live, fight and die for themselves alone… Being alive means being… separated from all other bodies. And being separated means being alone.”
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