Thursday, 26 August 2010

Loneliness in New York

America, the same yet so, so different. I've been here for just over a week and a half now and am still getting used to the shear size of everything. I spent a week in Philadelphia before heading up to New York from whence I have just returned. Whether the cities are a fair reflection of the country or not I don't know, but what I have seen is big and loud, neon lights and advertising boards everywhere announcing the presence of shops and the next must have accessory.

The Church I went to on Sunday was similar. As I walked through the doors in the middle of Manhattan, I was immediately greeted by several ushers, each wearing matching uniforms and was directed to the queue for seats (yes you hear me right, in this 3000 seater former theater there
was a queue for seats). As I was shown to my seat the 'show' began the curtains of the stage were drawn back and the pulpit moved to the front accompanied by a 100 piece choir and, for want of a better word, a jazz band.

The music was lively with lots of repeated phrases and jumping around, the Pastors and Elders on the stage were singing enthusiastically. However, after these first few songs the music became more contemplative, with 'deeper' lyrics. At this point all of the elders sat down and
became silent. No longer praising God with music, as soon as it lost it's driving tempo. This point could (and probably will) become a whole nother post. What I wanted to talk about was the message from the sermon.

Loneliness: That desire within all of us to be close to those around us. Whilst not agreeing with everything that was said I'd like to summarise what I got out of the sermon.

1) Everyone will/does feel lonely at some point in their life.
2) This loneliness can not be filled by the latest fade or even by a Husband/Wife.
3) We are lonely for God.
4) Loneliness should drive us to share the Gospel.

To expand slightly, loneliness is our realisation that things are not right. Even among such a vast swath of humanity as New York people are lonely, they feel isolated even as they bump into those around them. We were created to be in a relationship, with the perfect creator. Our desire for community can not be satisfied by fellowship (although this is necessary to build up the body of Christ) but only by being grafted in to the Triune togetherness of God. The fact that we are entering this relationship by Jesus' blood on the cross gives us a sure and certain hope that one day we will feel lonely no more, that 'on that day all pain and suffering will cease'. It should also inspire compassion for those around us, that without the Gospel there loneliness can never leave them.

Some things that were said that I don't really agree with:
1) God is lonely for us.
2) Before the fall there was no loneliness.

For a start these two points contradict each other, the second is tantamount to saying that loneliness is part of the curse of the fallen world and is thus bad, yet by the first God possesses this characteristic. To directly contradict the second point, we are told in
Genesis, that God saw it was 'not good for man to be alone', which to me at least suggests that loneliness was around before the fall. My problem with the first point is more subtle. Namely, does God's 'need' for us diminish his omnipotence, that is does his desire to be with us affect his righteousness or is he 'made less' when people continue to sin. I'm not saying that he doesn't desire all men to be saved but that this desire is formed from love and compassion rather than loneliness.

If anyone has actually read this far than thank you, 'perseverance builds character' to quote somewhere probably out of context. Any thoughts would be much appreciated to help me get this entirely straight in my head.


  1. Yeah I had the same experience when I was in Florida although to be fair the preach was actually pretty sound and helpful. I'd love to go to New York one day sounds like it would be a good experience.

    I think you correctly highlight that God was not lonely before he created mankind, since God has always been in perfect fellowship within the trinity. Sounds like they were saying that God was lonely and bored so he made us to sort of entertain him..

  2. Thanks Dan, was kind of a bit like that apparently the only reason that this earth is still around and God hasn't started again is that God is lonely for us.

  3. Hello...I thought it was interesting what you said about loneliness. I think the difference between the emotion Adam felt before the Fall and the one that we feel now is that he had an absolute certainty at the time that the loneliness would be answered. It seems to me that God's intention there was to let Adam come to understand for himself why it was he needed a companion who was compatible with him--not just as the male and female animals were compatible, but also to have another mind and spirit made in God's image that he could relate to.

    (I actually have said more about this in my most recent post over at my blog, though I am preparing to discuss gender roles there.)

    It's actually very interesting that we have a "negative" emotion occurring BEFORE the Fall. Have you considered the idea that this may be evidence that had Adam and Eve not interfered with His plans, that God was going to teach us knowledge at a responsible pace we could handle? This actually seems to give the lie to the atheist contention that God's indication was to keep us in an ignorant, childlike state...

  4. Thanks for the comment, I'm not sure that I can see the logic behind your last assertion; that God intended for us to have the 'knowledge of good and evil' just over a longer time span. Could you possibly elaborate?

    I think that Adam's loneliness must have been different from what we know as loneliness today. For 'on that day...there will be no more...pain' (Rev 21:4). Loneliness causes pain and thus can not exist (in its present form) in a perfect creation. Loneliness today is a corruption (caused by the fall) of what loneliness used to be, that good desire to be in the triune relationship twisted and bent to a painful longing for something that we have been separated from by sin.

  5. The difference between Adam's loneliness then and what ours is now, is that his came in total knowledge and trust that it would be answered. Ours tears at us because our trust is imperfect. No matter how much we'd like to say we ARE sure, I think that we are not 100% SURE that our longings will be answered. I have only experienced that total faith (or the closest I will come to it before actually passing) during a vision in which I was dying. (Whether or not I was physically dying I don't know and is beside the point, but what I felt then was that I was.) Adam was able to experience that sureness in life. And obviously Jesus was as well.

    Had Adam and Eve continued to learn from God...I do realize this is difficult to articulate, but I think that he would have learned to understand more about why they were made as they were. They would learn why good is good: first because God made it so, but also because I think they would learn to understand why He made it that way. The difference is that if God did indeed intend to continue such a process with them, they would have at all times experienced a steadfastness that we do not. Give us a bad idea and we lack the restraint not to try it out...Jesus, on the other hand, knew about what kinds of bad could be done but did not do it, no matter how much temptation was put in His path. I think it possible that had Adam and Eve chosen against sin, they might have been able to handle things the same way. Obviously I can't prove this since none of us knows what would've happened had they decided differently, but it is a thought.