When I was young, she was not.
Her name was Myrtle Smith. She was in her late seventies in the early 90s when I was her pastor. I used to joke with my wife and certain staff or friends that you should never ask Myrtle how she is doing because she will tell you.
Myrtle actually managed to alter my auto-greeting of, “Hello, how are you?”
My perception of Myrtle changed one weekday afternoon when I stopped by her modest mobile home to visit with her. It was my habit to visit our elderly folks on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. We were a small congregation at the time and that was not difficult to achieve. I suspected when I visited Myrtle, I would be in for a long visit…and I was.
Consequently, I cleared my calendar for the afternoon and bit the bullet.
There in her comfortable, tidy but tiny living room, we enjoyed coffee and conversation. For the first time ever, I truly did enjoy the conversation. I learned that beneath that pessimism and what appeared to be hypochondria was a delicate but strong arthritic body, fertile mind, and beautiful soul. Myrtle carried the weight of a deceased spouse, no children, isolation due to distance from what family she had left in the world.
She was lonely.
“Preacher, I just feel alone in the world. This little church is all the family I’ve got. Some of the older folks appreciate a visit from their pastor. I need it.”
That, I thought, was the least we could provide.
I was only 23 at the time and destined to encounter many other lonely souls from pastoral stints in California and Texas and then across North America in my travels as an adjuster. Today I am an executive officer for an independent adjusting firm. The travels continue. New faces, different stories, same burdens. So many people feel untouched, alone, overlooked, forgotten – even when they are with family or friends.
Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to the wonder and mystery of quantum physics. I am fascinated by the discipline, primarily, I suppose because I recognize my cognitive limitations and inability to comprehend it. One Facebook group I follow posted the following meme and it made me sit up in my chair (which is good, because I was slouching)…
We are all alone, says the Physicist.
Here is as good an explanation of this phenomena as I have found. Hope it helps.
To understand why you can never touch anything, you need to understand how electrons function, and before you can understand that, you need to know basic information about the structure of atoms
For starters, almost all of the mass an atom has is concentrated into an incredibly small region called the nucleus. Surrounding the nucleus is a whole lot of seemingly empty space, except for the region within an atom where electrons (and protons) can be found orbiting the central nucleus. The number of electrons within an atom depends on the element each atom is supposed to comprise.
Like photons, this funky subatomic particle also exhibits the particle-wave duality, which means that the electron has characteristics of both a particle and a wave. On the other hand, they have a negative charge. Particles are, by their very nature, attracted to particles with an opposite charge, and they repel other similarly charged particles.
This prevents electrons from ever coming in direct contact (in an atomic sense and literal sense). Their wave packets, on the other hand, can overlap, but never touch.
WHY WE THINK WE TOUCH THINGS
I’m sure some of you will wonder, “If electron repulsion prevents us from ever truly touching anything, why do we perceive touch as a real thing?” The answer boils down to how our brains interpret the physical world.
In this case, a number of factors are at work. The nerve cells that make up our body send signals to our brain that tell us that we are physically touching something, when the sensation of touch is merely given to us by our electron’s interaction with — i.e., its repulsion from — the electromagnetic field permeating spacetime (the medium electron waves propagate through).
by Jaime Trosper, futurism.com
What does this have to do with loneliness? Basically, everything! We are masterfully designed to interact with our environment, to “touch and feel” the things and people around us, and yet we never really touch anyone. We feel like we do. We “connect” with our significant others. We hug our parents. We hold our babies. We comfort one another. Sometimes we duke it out.
(I wish I had known this stuff about atoms not really touching back when I was 15 and had my big fistfight with Kyle O’Bannon behind the church. For no actual contact, my jaw was pretty sore for several days.)
While I wonder how this theory of Quantum Physics adds up when you see a car crash or view a hole in the earth where an asteroid struck, I do get the idea of the electrons resisting one another, the same way identical poles on separate magnets do.
About that loneliness thing, though…
This is at least a metaphor if not more than that when it comes to our human tendency to find true intimacy a difficult minefield to navigate. It explains the concept I have long espoused that – even if you are a spouse- it is impossible for one person to completely absorb or occupy another. Even couples are individuals coupled together.
But the Bible says the “two become one flesh!”
I know. That is not, however, a biological fact. It is a spiritual dynamic. It is the ideal scenario. It is really a mandate that must be consciously executed and maintained in order to exist.
Meanwhile, all those atoms of the Adams and Eves are crashing and repelling and rebelling. Anyone who says the “one flesh” marriage thing “just happens” naturally has never achieved or experienced it.
Imagine the multiplied googolplex (the biggest number I could find on, of course, Google) of atoms in our universe. They combine to make all of the elements of life, everything we see and smell and feel, and all the stuff we don’t. Yet every atom is its own universe working in its rebellious form of isolation, always resisting and repelling, bouncing about like a schizophrenic on LSD. It is a conundrum, wrapped in an enigma, and written in the mysterious fabric of God’s handiwork. We struggle to comprehend even a fragment of it.
God saw lonely Adam’s lonely atoms and made him a helpmeet, a partner, someone with whom he could do life. She was not the same as him, not at all. She was built differently. She had weaknesses where he was strong and vice versa. They were opposites. Yet, they fit together like complementary pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. (Hey, when it comes to matters of the heart, better a jigsaw than a buzzsaw!)
Of course, that didn’t stop Adam from blaming Eve for the whole forbidden fruit debacle. Really, he blames God because he said, “It was that woman YOU gave me.” Seems like measly men have been blaming mighty God for their screw-ups from the beginning, doesn’t it? That is another topic, however, and I will pursue it no further in this space.
The point here is this: loneliness is common. It is intrinsic to the human condition. You cannot satisfy enough fleshly urges to assuage it. You cannot hold tightly enough to another human to eliminate it. The loneliness of soul and spirit must be addressed by something beyond superatomic, something that is not atomic at all, but above and beyond while still being in and of this mess of atoms.
You are NOT alone! Or don’t have to be.
Only God can satisfy the soul. We are made to commune with our Creator. In that communion, in that union, in that relationship alone can we ever be fully, completely, and satisfactorily embraced.
Go ahead and love the ones you love. Embrace them. Kiss them. Be there with them and for them. Encourage and support them. Give the healing touch of love. Just remember, any relationship, no matter how sweet and rewarding is enhanced when God is in it. No relationship can replace Him or fully satisfy the nagging craving of the spirit that was made to commune with God.
Making love can satisfy your mind and body for a little while. Watching your kid score a goal or nail a dance routine can satisfy your need to celebrate someone you love. But…
Only Jesus can satisfy your soul. That is a truth more comprehensible and infinitely more valuable than any Quantum Physics discovery. From the subatomic level up, everything in Creation declares the glory of God.
My long-since deceased friend Myrtle, despite her cantankerousness, had a friend named Jesus. After we prayed together in her home, she gripped my hand and said, “My lovely young preacher, please remember this: only Jesus can satisfy your soul. I know that I am never really alone.”
Apparently, somewhere in the course of our visit, she felt a touch greater than our hands clasping in prayer. She felt the comforting presence of the Person who would remain after I left.
And she was satisfied and not alone.