Loneliness has two faces. One is human loneliness, and the other is loneliness for the divine. “My heart shall not rest until it rest in Thee.” Human loneliness is painful and tears one apart sometimes, blurring the face of a divine loneliness that Christ sends. Tenderness, gentleness and understanding help us to live in both types of loneliness, but especially in the human one, the ordinary one.
— Servant of God Catherine Doherty
What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.
— C.S. Lewis, On Friendship
Eight years ago, I left my parents’ home in Singapore to embark on university life in Brisbane. I spent four years in an Anglican college, after which I spent three years in a Catholic college in Sydney. This has been my first year living in share-house arrangements in Melbourne and in Brisbane, and even though my housemates have been really lovely to live with, sometimes it gets pretty lonely.
Sharing a house just isn’t the same as living in a family. I was blessed to transition from college life to share-housing with two months’ stay at a friend’s family home, where their peaceful family life helped me recover after an arduous final semester.
There is a sense of true belonging when one is with family. In a healthy family, one can share one’s innermost thoughts and feelings. This loving communion of persons engenders a sense of identity and security. One feels truly at home when one lives with people who share your inner life. You can be completely yourself with them.
Servant of God Élisabeth Leseur and her atheist husband Félix loved each other dearly, but it deeply pained her that she could not share her profound faith with him. “I thirst for sympathy, to bare my soul to the souls that are dear to me, to speak of God and immortality and the interior life,” Élisabeth wrote in her diary.
My housemates in Melbourne and in Brisbane do not profess any religion, and while they are splendid individuals who have shared not just dwelling-places but also recreation with me, we are unable to connect in the deep way that I can easily do so with my devoutly Catholic friends. We are not on the same wavelength; we inhabit different realities.
In his 1944 presentation “Is Theology Poetry?”, C.S. Lewis concluded, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” It is difficult to communicate, let alone commune, with persons who see the world through the lenses of a completely different worldview.
In the end, one has to remember the words of St. Thérèse: “The world is thy ship, and not thy home.” Even in the most loving of families, or the most observant of religious communities, the members cannot fully know and understand each other, or themselves for that matter. Only God can do that. Only in God will we find our true home.
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
When the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people if they really learn to look into their own heart [and that’s what I’m urging you to do right now] most people if they really learn to look into their own hearts would know that they do want and want acutely something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love or first think of some foreign country or first take up some subject that excites us are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can ever really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or failures of holidays and so on. I’m speaking of the very best possible ones. There is always something we have grasped at. There’s always something in that first moment of longing but fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse. The scenery has been excellent. It turned out to be a good job. But it’s evaded us.
…If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity