Great is your faithfulness, Oh God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee...you change not, you fail not, as you have been, you forever will be.
...your sweet familiar scent has left me, and now the loneliness comes to get me in the dreams I have at night
Hear that lonesome whippoorwill?
He sounds too blue to fly.
The midnight train is whining low,
I'm so lonesome I could cry.
~ Hank Williams,
I’ve had a particular fascination with airplanes since the day a body landed on the playground of our elementary school. I was in the 3rd grade. As the story goes, a young man desperate to get back to his family stowed away in the landing gear compartment of a Boeing 707. When the main gear deployed on approach to Runway 24R at LAX, the man fell out. I wish he had landed on the grassy part of the playground, but he hit just near the four-sqaure courts.
I began to reflect-- where was this man trying to go that he was willing to stowaway on an airplane to get there. As the story goes, he was trying to get to L.A. to reunite with his wife and family.
Was it Thomas Wolfe who opined, “One can never go home again.”? If that is true, why are so many trying to get there?
I spent one full year loading mail and cargo on airplanes at LAX. The characters, scoundrels and great men who crossed my path are worthy of a book. I have to tell you about Archie.
He was a Texan, but came to L.A., like so many, looking for the guarantees promised in the “Come to the Golden State” brochures. He'd work an eight hour shift, then four hours of overtime. Although his off-days were Friday/Saturday, he’d work overtime on Fridays. Then, on Saturdays, he would normally cover someone’s shift. Larry, the Supervisor, demanded Archie take at least one day off every three weeks. And, do you know what he did on his lone day off? He would come to the airport and spend four hours in the break room playing either dominoes or tonk.
I could never understand why. But, I was so young then.
Three years later, Archie arrived home after a 12 hour shift and found things, shall we say, a bit lonely. His wife moved every piece of furniture--including the paintings-- leaving him a note. Archie was destroyed--so, what did he do? He went back to work. Did he spend his time working for the money? If that was the case, why did come to the airport on off-days and vacations? Could it be that the relationships at the airport was a lone antidote for his profound loneliness?
It is, at once, both startling and illuminating that one of the earliest recorded statements made by God is this: “It is not good for Adam to be alone...” According to the book of Genesis, God created a ‘helper’ and ‘companion’ for Adam. (We know here as Eve-- Adam named her.)
Clearly, an argument can be made that God’s purpose for Eve was to ensure procreation and fulfill the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ mandate. Could there have been more? Was God interested in the emotional and psychological well-being and fully aware of the long-term effect of isolation?
How remarkable that on Jesus’ last night with his disciples, just before his illegal trial and execution, he expressed this concern for his crew: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Literally, I will not abandon you in a time of need. (Though each one, except John, chose to abandon him.)
Throughout the Bible, the reality of loneliness, the choice to forsake others and the long descent into depression is a consistent theme. God is interested in our tendency toward emotional desolation.
Lately, I observed a group of ‘so-called’ Christians abandon a fellow follower of Christ in time of need. It was a cruel, inhumane act which reminds me how easily ‘so-called’ Christians ‘pick, chose and refuse’ which parts of the Bible to embrace. How convenient for these people-- Christianity on my terms-- I can pick the part of Christianity that work for me and discard the remainder. It’s just like a buffet restaurant-- A 'post-modern' approach to Christianity that lets me be in charge.
God neither abandoned, nor left us in the lurch. That’s a clear theme of the Bible. So why would we, in our horizontal relationships, caustically cast aside others who’ve made a mistake.
This, for me, underscores a point of contention I have with Christianity (as it is practiced) in North America: Christians give lip service to prayer and matters of faith in God, but would neither recognize nor acknowledge Jesus if He bumped into them at a Denny’s parking lot. (And, if Jesus was wearing a throwback Kobe Bryant jersey with his hat backwards, they’d probably run away.)
How quickly--in these times-- Jesus’ followers abandon each other. And, if money or a business relationship is involved, they talk like this: ’Well, you don’t understand, we have to save face--we have to protect ourselves. And, we can’t let something like Jesus’ words spoken 2,000 years ago get in the way of business--but, we’ll be praying for you.’
I should hope these self-serving ‘post-modern’ Christians never utter a single word of prayer for me.