You Can Be Lonely in a Family Too (Sunday Thoughts Link Up #26)

PSALM 68:4-6

4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

David was an excellent orator, as all good leaders tend to be. He knew how to rouse a crowd. For this Psalm, which is a song, he is writing for a ceremony, a processional for the transfer of the ark of the covenant to Mount Zion. He’s in a celebratory mood. He’s feeling the comradery of his people and the recent peace in his land. He’s back-slapping soldiers and hugging widows and children. He’s riding high on the clouds with the God who made him victorious.

I want to shout hip hip hooray, but something struck a strange note with me when I hit the line, “God sets the lonely in families.” I took a tiny step back from good cheer. You can be lonely in a family too. Motherhood can be lonely, both the road getting there and the new one you find yourself walking with kids in tow. To be “set in a family” does not always mean understanding. Ask the kid who never felt accepted by his father or the husband who still doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings with his wife. Life on the other side is hard. For me, the loneliness was the worst when the kids were babies. You talk to yourself all day long, like a podcast pep talk on repeat, coaching yourself through the days and the feedings and the sleeplessness. You complain to other moms, but unless they’re in this stage they can only reminisce and if they are in this stage they’re at home just like you, tunneling out a life. It was worse with the twins. When Charlie was little everything was so intense I didn’t have time to feel lonely…there was no self-examination going on while suctioning out a trach. But with the twins, I was a whirligig, spinning for their needs and entertainment, all the while wondering when my needs could be met too, if I could even name what they were.

The only way to get myself out of the lonely place was to redefine “family.” If I had to be the nuclear center of ours, it would destroy me. I couldn’t hold it all together. So “family” became quick bursts of venting outside the nursery with moms at church who got it too. And “family” were the managers at our grocery store who always helped me entertain Charlie while we shopped. And my neighbors were “family” who invited us to cookouts…even though all I wanted to do was lie down on the floor with my cheek against the cool tile and rest. I needed their community even as my mind ran from it. Independence and self-sufficiency are great traits. But they’ll leave you “sun-scorched” in early motherhood. You’ll be singed and hollowed out—an empty tumbleweed rolling across the desert. It takes guts to be needy. But it brings in the crowd, rejoicing.

Sunday Thoughts Link Up!

It’s time for another Sunday Thoughts Link-Up! I know there are many out there with wisdom that could encourage all of us. As long as it’s Biblically-based, I’d love for you to join up and then read and comment on what others have shared. Please also leave a comment here. Think of this as a Sunday morning community group that comes to you. And grab the button if you like…

The Mom Gene

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