Lounging on our deck, eyes closed and toes absorbing the evening sunshine, I take a deep breath of California in July. Reliving our day at the beach – from the splashing of the boys’ feet through the surf to the wiggling of my own toes in the soothingly warm sand – each snapshot soothes my spirit. Then, from around the corner of the garage I hear one son smack the other with the words “Leave me alone.” I cringe as these words rip at my heart. At this moment, anger surges through my oldest because he feels crushed in some way by his younger brother. He already feels alone because of this hurt, so he seeks to inflict the same emotion on his sibling.
When was the last time you felt like saying those words, like running up the stairs to your bedroom and slamming your door, after shouting at the world, “Leave me alone?” As a teenager, I distinctly remember repeating those words to myself after my high school crush decided to date another girl. Now, as a wife, a mother, and a teacher, there are days when the little pinpricks of life become a haystack of irritation and I just want to “be alone.” Here’s the problem with that: I can push out the irritations of the world and build up walls of protection, but truly being alone means pushing out all of the warmth that comes with togetherness. Ecclesiastes 4:11 asks us “How can one keep warm alone?” We can’t. We were designed with a need for both human and divine connection.
I really love morning cuddles with my boys. Even now, though they are well past the baby stage, the drowsy warmth of their hugs after a nap or on a chilly morning bring me incomparable comfort. No matter how many blankets I pile on my bed, I cannot recreate that feeling. Something about the connection between our spirits makes my boys’ hugs uniquely warm and special. It is the same “warm and fuzzy” feeling I get from sharing an ocean view with my mom or from praying with my husband. It’s the indescribable connection I have with those nearest to my heart. It is the connection created where “two or more gather” and the Holy Spirit is present in their togetherness.
My boys crave this connection; when my youngest cuddles, he wraps both arms around my neck, curls his knees up on my lap, and nuzzles his head into my shoulder. When settled on the couch to watch a movie, my oldest boy unknowingly crosses my leg with his, or rests his hand over mine. While both boys squish, wriggle, and even push their sweet toes up into my ribs at times, I cherish the warmth and connection we share with each hug, knowing God created them specifically to be together with me. They were born with a need to feel connected, just as I was born with that same need.
I cannot imagine maneuvering the path that Adam Miller, the father in When Calls the Heart’s “Perils of the Soloist (season 1, episode 8) struggles through as he walks away from his wife and girls. Not only does he push away those closest to him, he isolates himself from his entire community. When Mountie Jack seeks him out, Adam initially attempts to remain within the cold, dark shack, alone, despite Jack calling him to the warm fire. This scene provides a startling visual of how we often hide from the warmth of fellowship and community. Once Adam realizes how important his family is in his own path towards healing, and the key role he plays in the family as well, he opens himself to the comforting warmth of his daughter’s embrace. In fact, his character’s storyline closes with both father and daughter cuddled together, singing their favorite song. Somehow, we know that Adam will survive this dark period in his story because he is surrounded by love.
Though life’s waves knock us off our feet, and its clouds seek to pull us into icy isolation, God’s plan for us is different. He has designed our spirits with a need for warmth, for comfort, for connection with Him and with other believers. Though our fleshly selves will lie to us and tell us we can do it alone, that independence and self-sufficiency are right and good, our God has told us that we are just pieces of a much bigger body. We need connection to bring warmth and healing to our souls.
There will be points in our lives where God calls us to be the comforter; He will challenge us to shoulder loved ones’ burdens, to dry their tears, or to speak encouragement into their weary souls and help pull them out of isolation. At other points, He will bring comforters into our lives, to bring us warmth when our hearts and spirits have been hammered with the icy barbs of the world. And no matter how many times we tell God “leave me alone,” He will always be our ultimate source of companionship, the warmth our spirits crave.
So, as the soothing sand slips through the fingers of my memories and I revel in the comfort of the crashing waves of the Pacific, I will thank my Creator for the loved ones who surround me, and I will give one more hug, listen to one more story, and learn one more verse of encouragement so that the warmth of the Holy Spirit continues to flow through me. I will sit my boys down and teach them about the God who created them to love one another.