On Being Alone

I love my life of solo travel.  And yet…

It’s strange to know that, wherever I am in the world, there’s no one else on the planet who I care about that knows exactly where I am or what I’m doing at any given moment.  And they’re not overly concerned about it (there’s no need), except to know that I’m alive and well.

This is an interesting position in which to be.  It builds in me a particular independence at the same time that it fosters dependence.  Let me explain.

I’ve always been an independent person.  Since the day I left my mother’s house to live on my own for the first time, I haven’t needed anyone to take care of me.  In nearly 20 years, I’ve managed my life quite effectively, from ensuring that my car was well maintained to keeping my finances in good order to managing my household.  God has blessed me with an independent spirit and it has served me well.

Developments in my life over the last 2 years have increased my independence.  The expected dependencies that come with romantic ties have disappeared.  On top of that, my parents are (fairly) young and healthy.  These facts mean that every decision I make is my own.  Every single one of them.  I decide when and where I go and what I do and I don’t factor anyone else into that decision because I don’t have to.  It sounds selfish, I know, but it’s a raw fact.

Other than my work committments and Skyping with my loved ones, no one needs me to be in any particular place at any particular time doing any particular thing for them.  This lends a sense of freedom to my life, even if it occasionally feels a bit sad, because sometimes we all want to be the most important person in somebody’s world.

On the other hand, this solo life has taught me a dependence on God that I don’t think I could have gotten in any other way.  In our everyday lives, most of us who are Christians tell ourselves that we depend on God for everything, but we don’t.  We depend on ourselves then we turn to God when we feel we’re out of options because we can’t solve our problems ourselves.  We’re excellent at fooling ourselves; I know because I did it for years.

I’ve now literally learned to cast my care and not worry about the next day or the next thing because it’s absolutely just the Holy Spirit and me on this daily journey.  I’ve learned to trust my life to God but more importantly, I’ve learned to trust my luggage to Him.  Yup, my luggage.

In Amsterdam a few weeks ago, I found myself worrying about my checked luggage being correctly transferred to my next flight so that it would arrive at my intended destination with me.  I thought this wasn’t unreasonable since I had a bad experience going through Amsterdam last summer where my luggage was about 2 days behind me for a while.  Anyway, I stopped myself there in Schipol Airport and asked myself what I was doing.  Was I really obsessing over luggage when just that morning I had spent 30 minutes talking to God about all sorts of things, including asking Him to clear the way ahead of me on my travels?  What sort of sense did that make?  How could I entrust my life and my journey to Him but still be worried about my luggage?  I clearly hadn’t really entrusted everything to Him.  So I prayed for peace about the luggage and I settled down to enjoy my journey.

On top of that, my relationship with God underwent a dramatic expansion in the past couple of weeks, initiated by my Kilimanjaro adventure.  During that trek, I learned about true minute-by-minute dependence on God in a profound way that has lead to a deeper level of trust in Him than I’ve ever known before.

Do you see the very simple point that I’m making?  Traversing this world alone has given me a wonderful independence and freedom but it has given me something far more important: an ever-closer, more trusting and faith-filled relationship with my awesome God.  That’s a trade-off worth making.

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