Last week I was on the phone with a man who lives with same-sex attraction. He told me the worst part of the day was getting up. The best part: going to bed. Each day is drudgery for him. He loves God, yet every day he wishes God would call him home. Just getting through each day feels like the greatest act of love he can give to God right now.
Another friend wrote me this past weekend, telling me she is experiencing bone-crushing loneliness. She too lives with same-sex attraction, lives alone, and is doing her best to be faithful to the call of chastity. Yet she is weary of living alone, always coming home to an empty house.
A man who lives on the other side of the world told me just after Thanksgiving that he has sex with men so he won’t feel so alone. His favorite part of being with a man, he says, is being held by the man he is with, after the deed is done. The sex is the key that unlocks the door for sharing intimate moments with a man who he can pretend, for a moment, loves him. He is profoundly lonely too.
In the cold of winter, as the days grow shorter, and the clouds fill the sky with dreary monochrome, loneliness can freeze over the soul. Advent, we’ve always been told, is a season of waiting–but waiting for what, exactly? The life of the single person often feels like a perpetual Advent, a life filled with waiting, watching, and hoping that somehow, someway, someday, “life” will finally begin. The single life can seem like the waiting room to happiness, especially in one’s twenties and early thirties, as friend after friend gets married and starts a family, while the question one fears to ask grows like a thundercloud, (felt so heavily in Advent, with each Christmas card received, featuring pictures of smiling, happy families, next to a Christmas tree): “What about me, dear God? What Joy to the World is there for me? ‘No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground?’ Bah, Humbug!”
This is not an essay where I will turn the corner from the thorns and sorrows, to visions of verdant and green pastures. Part of Advent is painful. It’s a time for sorrow. For waiting. For recognizing that we live in a valley of tears, “in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.” This is a post for the lonely, the heartbroken, the tired and the hopeless. I won’t offer here something to take away the pain, except to say that this Advent, I desire to enter into people’s loneliness, and carry it with them, since I know how heavy a burden it is. Sometimes, the wisest thing we can do is to sit in silent waiting, alongside those who are in profound pain and suffering, just like the friends of Job did. This, I’m convinced, is part of what we are called to do while we wait for the coming of Our Lord.
Pray for lonely people this Advent. Pray for single people. Pray for the divorced. Pray for the widow. Pray for women who wished to be married and have a family, but are still single, with no hope of ever being a mother now. Pray for men and women with same-sex attraction who dread the specter of living alone. Pray for the misunderstood, the betrayed, the abused, the sick and the dying and the bereft. Seek them out. Sit with them. Walk with them. Perhaps most of all, think of them as if they were Mary and Joseph, with no place to lay their heads, and in the painful and cold waiting of Advent, invite the lonely and heartbroken into your home.
Perhaps what they have been waiting for is you.