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Stranger in a Strange Land

"The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being," Chesterton writes. "almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth." This morning I felt like pondering on the universal loneliness we all feel. We've heard the expression, "no man is an island," yet we do feel like islands. I heard a sermon the other day where the pastor said there are more people now living on the earth than have ever lived in all of history, and you would think because there are so many people out there, one would never be lonely. Yet, loneliness and feelings of isolation plague humanity more than ever before.

Here's how Chesterton describes it, in his book The Everlasting Man: "Man has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one. He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. . . . Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter, as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. . . . It is not natural to see man as a natural product."

This feeling we experience has no place in the theory of evolution. For, if humans developed naturally out of the natural world, there would be no strange sense of alienation. But God created us to know him, long for him, and to need him. He put a God-shaped hole in our hearts that nothing will plug except the intimacy gained with him. One of my favorite scriptures is in the book of Acts, chapter seventeen, where Paul tell the Athenians that God made out of one man all humans. And that He fixed both the length of years that they should live as well as the boundaries they would roam in--to what end? So that they should seek God and actually grope for Him, so that they would find Him--although He is not far off from each of us.

That is the source of our apparent loneliness. We are meant to be lonely without God, so we will grope for him. I love that word--so rich in image. As a blind man gropes for a wall or a table to hold onto. We are fumbling around in the dark, our hands outstretched, feeling the edges of a confusing, blurry world, longing for something solid and trustworthy to lean on. To rest in.
When I finished writing my sixth novel, Someone to Blame, I found myself returning over and over in the book to the theme of safety, and our striving to feel safe in a turbulent life that offers no protection from pain and suffering. How grateful I am to know God is holding me in His everlasting arms and that no matter what cliffs I fall off of in this life, He is there to catch me--faithful, true, loving, gentle, kind, merciful, forgiving. We will run out of words to describe Him long before He runs out of amazing qualities!

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