His face crumpled when he realized he wasn’t going to the birthday party with his brother.
“But I never get invited to birthday parties,” he sniffed. With a start, I realized that he was right. It was April, and he hadn’t been invited to any school birthday parties this year. That old, familiar ache rose up in my chest. It had not bothered me much as a child, as my few friends were always enough for me. But as a mom, that ache grew in my heart for years. The pinching loneliness of not having friends, of not being invited, of being left out.
He wailed in my arms while I tried to hold my own broken pieces together. For his sake.
I often revisit those years, in my memories. After the babies were born, I went back to work at my church, part-time. Never there long enough to become friends with my coworkers, but always feeling the load of the work at home, keeping me tied down even on my free days. Never invited to the women’s group, at least not personally. Always rushing at work to get things done, leaving little time for lunchtime chatter. Never being brave enough to initiate anything of my own. Always feeling like an invisible soul, dutifully doing my work without being noticed. Looking back, it’s obvious to me that I was not as invisible as I felt, but nevertheless, the sense that I was slipping through life unseen was overwhelming.
My son and I moved over to the stairway to talk. Sitting in a shaft of light from the afternoon sun, I shared with him what had changed in my life.
“When I am feeling lonely, I start looking around for someone else who looks lonely. There is always someone else who feels the same way. I start talking to them and I feel less lonely because I know that I am helping someone else.”
For an introvert, this act goes against everything in my nature. But even introverts get lonely for true connection. The best thing I have ever done was join the women’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings at my church. It has been a stretch for me, and it has been very hard to get out the door some weeks.
The women attending the group were all ones I wanted to get to know, but early on it felt like I had an impossible barrier to hurdle. While I knew most of their children from my work as the Children’s Ministry Director, I didn’t know anything about my peers, the other moms. The thought of getting to know them was daunting, because friendship doesn’t form in a single conversation.
Later, it was hard to go because some weeks parenting and working is overwhelming and I couldn’t even keep up with making dinner, never mind going to Bible study. It was those days that being a group leader was a hidden blessing: I had to go. They expected me.
Three years later, I have developed friendships. It took many conversations and trips to McDonalds after Bible study, but they are there. I am no longer lonely.
“See,” I told my boy, “when we look for others to help, we start to feel better. It’s hard to ask someone if they want to play, but when you are brave enough to do that, you might make a true friend in the process.”
He nodded, then hopped up to go play again. My heart still hurt for him, but I know this will be better for him in the long run. Better to be the one initiating friendships and spreading love, because that is a skill worth cultivating.
Being able to see the beauty in others is a Christ-like quality that brings a little of His healing into our world, a little of His light into the darkness. He created that lonely ache in our hearts because it drives us into communion with others and communion with Him. If we let it, that ache of loneliness can become a catalyst for building relationships, both as moms and as kids.
Christie Thomas is the mom of 3 boys who love stories and wife of an educator (who doubles as her personal key-finder). She is the Director of Children’s Ministry at her church, a family faith blogger, and the author of a devotional book for families with busy little ones. To connect with Christie or to snag her 3 free “Stories to Stir the Soul of Your Kids”, pop over to her website!