Hesitantly, he walks into the room full of youthful activity; balls bouncing, teen girls giggling, and the stench of sweaty boys fills the air. Loud music competes for the attention of all.
Glancing to the left he sees a huddle of teens. Panning the room, he sees established groups of kids going back and forth between their chosen activity and staring at their phone and intensely replying to a text, Facebook post, Instagram picture or whatever has drawn their attention away from the flesh and blood that stands before them.
Unnoticed by all, he bravely makes his way around the room, looking for an opportunity to “break into” the conversation or action. But his shyness and awkwardness hold him back. Courage fades and a sudden urge appears to find an excuse, any excuse to get out. The battle within himself rages and consumes his focus.
“Do I risk failure and embarrassment by trying to blend into their conversation or do I sadly sink away and dissolve into the darkness and wait for the horror to be over?” He chooses the latter, the lesser of two evils.
“I decide to grab my phone and hide behind the mask of purposeful conversation on my device. At least this way, I appear to fit in.” These were the thoughts of my teen-age boy after another attempt to find a place to “fit in.”
Loneliness is becoming an epidemic. It’s more rampant than ever due to the ease of which we can hide behind technology for our sole means of communication. Eye contact, facial expressions, and even body language are becoming obsolete. For an intensely, painfully shy person like myself, you may conclude that this is a God send. While I admit, at times, texting or messaging on Facebook is my saving grace to which I give into in hopes of avoiding a panic attack or breaking out in hives because I gravely fear face to face encounters, it still is no match for human contact. After all, we were designed for contact, relationship and connection with other people. God, Himself proclaims, “It is not good for man to be alone…” Genesis 2:18.
A few months ago, I posted the following on Facebook. Based on the comments and “likes” received, it would appear I am not the only mother who struggles with having to watch her children suffer.
As much as I would like to blame cell phones, video games or other technological devices for my son’s loneliness, I can’t. The truth is, my son doesn’t fit into the “normal.” He’s beautifully awkward, unique and what some view as odd or quirky, I celebrate as unparalleled. But, those qualities are rarely embraced by others. Instead, they continue to lead to awkward and uncomfortable moments that are hard to erase from his mind. His personality and quirks become reasons for rejection. Yes, he is aware of his social awkwardness and where he doesn’t “fit in.” As a result, so much of his uniqueness is being hidden out of fear. Video games, tablets and the cell phone have become his shield. (SIDE THOUGHT) I have to wonder if some “normal” people do the same. Are others, who are seemingly addicted to their cell phone really using it to hide the awkward and uncomfortable? How many people in a crowded room, would raise their hand if asked “do you feel alone?”
I look forward to the day, when all are equal in status, beauty and giftedness. A place where abnormal is celebrated as creative uniqueness instead of an abnormality that has to be “fixed.” I crave a time when I no longer have to wipe tears from my child’s eyes who just painfully discovered that not everyone is understood or accepted for their differences.
There are no easy answers, no quick fixes, and certainly the issues of loneliness will always be a battle while life is lived out on earth.
All I can do is encourage my son, and myself, that there is a powerful God who also knows the sting of rejection and by the Power of His Spirit, we can rise above the hurt, the lies and the rejection. We can stand on the truth of God’s word, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.
The weight of our value should be on what Christ thinks of us, not what other imperfect and deeply flawed human beings place on us.
There are three things I strive to remember every day.
1. I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139
2. I am loved with a “greater love” than any “man” could possibly offer and Jesus proved that love by “laying down his life” for me. John 15:13
3. I have, within me, the ability and power to overcome the lies that Satan tries to use to define me. Lies such as “I’m not good enough, no one likes me or I’m just a nobody compared to others. James 4:7
Loneliness is painful for anyone, but to a teenager who is just discovering who they are and what their purpose is in life, it can be detrimental to their emotional development. In light of that fact, I prayerfully commit to encourage and affirm the youth of this world and be a positive voice of acceptance. No one should do life alone or dare I say, through the wire or wireless connection of some device. Embrace the awkward and different and the rejected. Let the voice of God speak more loudly than the voice of the world and then we can experience the “renewing of our minds” and discover what God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will is” for our lives. Romans 12:2