There I was.  Surrounded by friends. And none of them were mine.

I watched the people standing in line for food, sitting or standing at tables, and milling and talking. I didn’t know a soul.

Okay, I did know a soul. I saw two souls I knew—casually. I said hello and they greeted me in passing. Then I was alone again.

I filled my “Tim Scott for Senate” tumbler with watery pink lemonade and then wandered again around the adjoining rooms looking to see if there were any familiar faces I may have missed. Nope.

So I got in one of the lines—knowing only that there was probably food at the front and that I was starving. I made small talk with the lady in line behind me. She was running for school superintendent. I wished her well.

I filled my plate with cold BBQ pork and meatballs and then went in search of a place to sit. There were several empty tables outside, so I made my way to one. Another couple soon approached with their plates of food and asked if they could sit across from me, and I readily agreed. But between the stiff breeze and the blaring speakers behind us, it was evident that any attempt at conversation would be no more than a futile shouting match. So we ate and listened to the blaring music.

It was hard to guess exactly how many people were there at this fundraiser for Tim Scott for Senate, but from my table, I could see that the parking lot was full and overflowing—people were parked on the grass and kept coming.

All the politicos were here hobnobbing, I guess. Like I said, I didn’t recognize any of them. I felt alone, but it didn’t bother me that much. I was about to finish my plate of food and head for home where my dog was going to be better company than this entire crowd.

When I thought about it, I realized although I was a nobody in this group, I was probably not the loneliest person here. In fact, it occurred to me that perhaps the loneliest person here was Tim Scott himself. Now I need to qualify this, because I don’t know. In fact, I really have no idea.

But think through this with me. Imagine having thousands of people in your life. Thousands. And they all want something from you. You stand for hours while different people come to the front of a line to shake your hand and take their picture with you. You make small talk with each one as they come up and try to act interested and excited to see them. Then they walk away. And you greet the next one.

If you hear from any of them again, it’s going to be, “Hi, I’m Joe. I was a sponsor of your Charleston fundraiser. I’m having this problem…I think Congress should…” And that will be your relationship.

Mind you, Tim Scott is well liked in South Carolina and on this planet in general. So he probably has it better than most politicians. But even so, how many real friends does he have? I wonder. And how much time could he possibly invest in those relationships with his real friends to keep them healthy?

What kind of relationships do you create when every email that goes out with your name on it is begging for money?  When even your birthday party costs money to attend?

Perhaps he is also thinking right now “Here I am, surrounded by friends.  And none of them are mine.”

The fact is that loneliness is not a rare occurrence. In fact, I’m convinced that everyone is lonely sometimes—whether single or married, rich or poor, introvert or extrovert. I’ve heard moms talk about the loneliness of being around little people all day; fathers confess the loneliness of the pressures they face; teens feel lonely because they have no friends they can trust; college students moan about the loneliness of dorm life; graduates talk about the loneliness of the transition into the work force; I even recently read an article about the loneliness pastors face.

Perhaps the puzzling part is not that so many people struggle with loneliness but that we assume so many people do not. Loneliness is no respecter of persons and has nothing at all to do with the number of Facebook friends you have. I believe it has to do with the availability of another understanding soul that we can connect with on a deeper level.

Some of us choose loneliness because we have bought into the lie that somewhere out there is another human being that we will be able to bare our soul to completely who will not judge us in the smallest way— but just listen to all the good and all garbage we want to spew and then knowingly make some wise and loving response that fixes everything. And raise us up so we can stand on mountains.

Some of us have realistic expectations, but we find ourselves lonely because we either don’t have the time or the energy to invest in healthy relationships with people that we respect enough to make ourselves vulnerable.

Regardless of the reason, loneliness is…well…it’s lonely. It get it. Believe me.  It is incredibly painful.

Loneliness itself is not a sin—I even wonder if Jesus was lonely at times. But it can lead to sin. It can lead to discontentment, to bitterness, to jealousy, and generally to unhappy, unfruitful living.

But it doesn’t have to.

I think the greatest service that loneliness can perform is to teach us our need for our Savior. King David was thoughtful enough to record for us some of the times that his lonely soul took refuge in his shadow of our Savior’s wings. When you have no time and no energy for anything else, start there. Read Psalm 34, Psalm 103, and Psalm 63. Earnestly seek God. Let your thirsty soul look for water where the springs of living water flow.

But even that is not an instant or permanent cure…which may sound heretical on its face. But I believe that even though God wants us to draw near to Him, He doesn’t encourage us to live lives in isolation. It isn’t healthy. It’s like the difference between fasting and starving. One can be constructive, the other will kill you.

So that leads me to what is perhaps the second greatest service that loneliness can perform—to teach us to compassionately care for others. It can make us more patient. More kind. More considerate. It can teach us that life isn’t about us. There is a world of people out there that God created to be part of a community who are also starving for companionship.

I complained to a friend that I was lonely and they surprised me by saying, “I can’t fix that for you.” Bummer. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but they were right.  The best cure for loneliness was seeing past myself into the needs of others and exercising the initiative to build bridges into other people’s lives.

Be a friend—because there are those who need your friendship as much as you need theirs, maybe even more.

Trial by Social Media: If your goal is restoration, why are you doing more damage than necessary?

I’ve been incredibly saddened recently to read about the sin and/or alleged sin of two prominent Christian leaders. I’m disappointed to read of the confessions and or accusations posted on Facebook by perhaps well-intentioned Christian friends of mine.


Seriously, Christians. What are you thinking???

I’ve seen comments on such posts which say everything from “this is so sad” to “I hope he faces eternal punishment.”

These posts and the accompanying comments make me thoroughly ashamed of how we treat our fellow believers. And frankly, I don’t think they do anything to bring glory to the name of Christ.

Perhaps what gets me most is the people involved who claim to have followed Matthew 18. This has me particularly puzzled because I don’t read anything about the Internet or Facebook in Matthew 18. What I read in Matthew 18 are ways to deal with sin within the church. Do you hear me?  Within the church.

Scripture is clear that you should not take fellow believers to trial in front of a non-believing judge. How much more true is it then that we would not put a fellow believer on trial before millions of uninvolved and unauthoritative Facebook friends?  What justice is there in that?

At first, I read many of the articles. Tried to sift through them and figure out what are grains of truth. Then I realized that isn’t my job. Nor was it the job of the people I was hearing the facts from.  They were just stirring the pot.

Matthew 18 teaches that if you have something against a brother, you go to them directly.  If you are unable to work it out, you take a second witness to them directly. If they don’t repent, you take it to church.  Galatians 6 provides additional guidance indicating that the goal should be restoration and it should be handled by “you who are spiritual” and handled “in a spirit of gentleness.”  1 Corinthians 6 teaches that the church should act as the tribunal in disputes among Christians.  They hear the evidence. They weigh the facts. They test the credibility of the witness. They reach a conclusion. If they find the accused guilty, they administer the discipline.  And there is never a time when the sin is publicized for all the world to make a mockery of the Church and Christians. [I Corinthians 6:5]

But…I’m reminded. These are serious accusations.  Partly true in the case at hand. More serious perhaps than the original facts warranted. The inferences and implications cast a shadow much larger than the facts themselves. But, nevertheless, I’ll agree that when you raise a high standard, you’re going to be held to it. So, yes, they are serious.

The more serious the accusation, the more important it is that it is handled biblically.  Justly. Quietly.

Not trial by social media.

I even heard one group claim that they had followed Matthew 18 because they tried to confront the accused with the facts before they went public and he wouldn’t agree to their terms. Honestly?  That’s less justice than MSNBC gave George W. Bush.

And to top it all—I see Christians getting excited and reposting the report when the story was “finally” picked up by the mainstream media.  Like this was some political foray.

After numerous posts, I’m convinced that there are those out there who are convinced that justice isn’t done until everyone knows and is convinced the accused is guilty and the debt has been paid in shame and disgrace.

I thought about in relation to a Christian leader who had repented from sin and posted an article of confession on his website.  That took a lot of humility and I have no doubt he had already suffered profoundly. Why would you repost that in your Facebook feed?  Are you trying to give your non-Christian friends yet another reason not to believe?  I tried and I just can’t think of a single good reason to plaster that on your wall.

Is that how you would want your sin handled?  I think of my many, many sins.  I think of reading them on my friends’ Facebook pages.   As if sin’s own consequences were not painful enough and everyone wanted a turn throwing a stone at me.   I can envision every feeble reminder of my merits met with, “Why are you defending her?  She’s a sinner!”

Because I am. It’s true.

And so are you.

So if you’re a Christian—and by that I mean you have trusted Christ as your Savior from sin — then the only comment you should have to any of these posts is “this is me.”  “But for God’s grace–maybe even despite God’s grace–this is me.”

That’s not to say we shouldn’t deal with sin. We certainly should. And the witnesses to the facts should say something if they see a pattern of unrepentant sin.  And the sinners should be dealt with, taken from leadership when needed, and even put out of the church if necessary.

But…don’t put it on Facebook.

Any of you out there without sin can cast the first stone. The rest of us should drop our stones and go deal with our own issues and let the accused deal directly with the Savior. He knows how to handle sinners.  He has lots of experience both with repentant and unrepentant.   He knew when to forgive and when to chase them out of the church with a whip.

Trust Him. He knows the facts. He sees the heart. He tries the motives. He gives wisdom to those whom He puts in places of authority.

And He doesn’t need Facebook.

Let’s focus our energies on making sure the things we post are not only true, but also that they are right.

And if you don’t have a good dad…

I know that I’m not the only one who believes that men should generally be treated with a little more respect.  In fact, I noticed that shortly after my blog, Matt Walsh published a blog along similar lines.  Of course, he said it better than I said it…which is probably why he has about 7 million readers to my 70.

Just the same, I found myself burdened for some loved ones who came to mind who perhaps do not have reason to respect men or be particularly grateful to their dads (or husbands).  We all make mistakes, but as the leaders in their homes, when they blow it, a dad’s mistakes can affect a lot of people for a long time.

Take this, for example:

Her dad left when she was six.  He ran away with his secretary—he was forty two, she was eighteen.  He had been married to her mother for twenty years and together they had had seven children.  All who had died except one.

This was back in 1928.  People just didn’t do this sort of thing.  There was no alimony, there was no child support.  Just a single mother suddenly on her own trying to make a living after twenty years of homemaking in a world that didn’t have many employment opportunities for women.   

It was a disgrace.

When she was 10, her father gave her a bicycle.  That is the only thing she ever remembers he gave her.  He was never affectionate.  He never told her he loved her.  He rarely came to visit and when he did, she would often run and hide.

And when he died, she learned of it from a friend who saw his obituary in the Atlanta Journal.  But he had already been out of her life for a long time.

A bad dad?  Yes, I think you could put one mark in that category.  Perhaps he didn’t want to be; perhaps he didn’t mean to be.  But he made decisions that sort of blew it for the “happy family” scenario.  After that, it was just damage control.  Unsuccessful damage control.

And unfortunately he was not the only one.  There are others out there, husbands and fathers who have treated their families rather shabbily.  I have read some men’s commentary on this (including a humorous rendition by Dave Barry) who conclude—we’re guys.  We’re going to do dumb things.  Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed.  If we want to be responsible, we will be.  If we don’t, deal with it.

But I’m not buying it.  Not at all.

I’m not going to let the few, the irresponsible rob me of my reason to respect men in general.  And I hope, even if you’ve been hurt by a man, that you won’t either.

Keep loving.  Keep trusting.  Keep expecting.

Expect them to stand up and be a leader.  Expect them to be faithful (and forgive them when they try imperfectly).  Expect them to work hard, and cheer them on when they do.  Expect them to set goals—even some wild and crazy ones that they won’t quite be able to pull off—and help them try anyway.   Expect them to get worn out and broken from time to time–and when they do, be there to remind them of their strengths.

Because this is the stuff respect is made of.  You cannot respect a man if you expect nothing good from him.  You can use him, you can pity him, but you can’t respect him.

And men need respect—it is what good relationships are built on. As Christians, we should never, never, never give up on good relationships.   Imperfect, yes.  Broken, at times.  But able to be forgiven, restored, and rebuilt because that is the beauty of the grace God gives us to love and respect.

If you’ve been hurt in the past, I’m sorry.  If the person who hurt you never asked forgiveness, I’m sorry.  But don’t use this as an excuse to buy into Dave Barry’s pretend standard for men.  It sounds funny—especially when he says it—and there may be a few immature men out there of whom it is true.  And I suspect they hate it about themselves.  I think there are very few men out there who truly don’t care at all.

I stand by my earlier conclusion: if you have a good man in your life—dad, husband, son, whatever, be sure to show them a healthy amount of respect.  Tell them thank you.  Be sure they know that you know that they are not Mr. Bernstein.  Or Dave Berry.