So yes, sometimes I struggle with feeling alone in church. Not all the time, but sometimes, and when those sometimes add up and begin to feel unbearable, my God provides.
With family. With friends and kindred spirits. And yes, with stories. With books.
The same friend who asked about moments of doubt and unbelief expressed how alone she, too, can feel at church, particularly among women. (It turns out, we don't all enjoy Bible studies with pink and purple flowers on the cover. Are you listening, Christian publishing industry? Someone needs to get on that, and stat.) She asked where I've found older, wiser women who show me the way.
I mentioned my mother. My aunts. My cousins. My grandmothers.
And then I mentioned Madeleine L'Engle. And Barbara Brown Taylor. Lauren Winner. Anne Lammott.
These are the women I have read and loved. I have not always agreed with them, but I have appreciated them for showing me a different way, for raising their voices and giving me hope.
If the internet is to be believed, C.S. Lewis once said, "We read to know we are not alone," and I couldn't agree more.
When I am feeling alone, when I can't seem to find a kindred spirit in the pew next to me, I turn to the books I love so much, and I'm reminded there are people out there who are like me, who ask questions and who seek honest answers.
Combatting loneliness, for me, isn't about finding people who agree with me. It's not about finding my long-lost opinion twin. It's simply about finding someone who asks the questions I'm asking, someone who has felt alone like I have felt alone. It's why I think telling and sharing our stories is so important. I firmly believe there are people out there waiting for someone like us to come along and share our joys and struggles and heartbreak. Our stories just might be the answers to someone's prayer.
The Father provides answers to my struggles with belief in all kinds of surprising ways.
But I love that He knows me well enough to understand that sometimes, books are the best way for Him to remind me of His love. They can be the best reminder that I am not walking through this life of faith alone.