I quite enjoy my own company. I like to read, listen to music, write, sew and many other things that lend themselves to being solitary activities. I look forward to blocks of time I can find to indulge in one and view it as an act of self care and rejuvenation.
I work with kids all day in quite a demanding job in terms of extroverted energy requirements. I enjoy it greatly but I need the balance of quiet time to keep me from becoming burnt out or at the very least pretty grumpy.
Having the house to yourself is one of those simple joys in life. You get to do the dishes in your own sweet time, spread your stuff throughout the communal spaces and blast your music without your conscience getting in the way. I have been guilty occasionally of enjoying this time to myself so much that I have had the realisation that I have gone a couple of days without speaking out loud to another person.
It's usually by day two that I start to notice the lack of human contact. You start feeling like you could have missed a major event or even a catastrophe. Having no one around to talk to feels like you are isolation despite the fact that it began as an enjoyable experience . Even in your own home you can feel cut off and lonely.
I thought that leaving my church community at home would be an experiment of sorts. I was desperate to go and travel and looked at it as an opportunity to test my faith and see what my relationship with God looked like outside of the structure of church. I thought somewhat naively that it might bring me closer to Him, being away from some of the issues and challenges that had been sapping my spiritual energy at home.
Feels like running away
Instead I feel like I ran away rather than working through what the people I left behind now have. A lot of my friends have now moved to different churches which is a sad thing of course but at least their faith journey is continuing and evolving. I have moved on in a sense but it is as if I have lifted up my foot without yet placing it on anything.
It is easy to make excuses. For one thing I haven't stayed in one place long enough to start going to a church. However now that I have planted roots somewhere I work on weekends which is an even better reason to avoid it.
But what exactly am I avoiding? I loved my church community despite the struggles. I wasn't glad to be leaving it in the first place and yet I seem to be in no hurry to find another.
I'm trying to be honest with myself and I have come to some kind of conclusion that I am disappointed with myself for not being able to do it on my own and for failing to create my own habits that fuel my spirit and help me grow as a Christian. In wandering aimlessly I fear I have gone backwards.
I have realised that Church and a faith community creates the moments of connection with other people that allow God to work in your life. In searching for alone time I have unwittingly isolated myself from God Himself. I am only one vessel for Him to work through making it no wonder that I haven't felt his presence in a very long time.
Not all bad news
That's not to say that I haven't seen God's work around me but as time has gone on I have felt more and more like a spectator than a contributor. Friends back home have been reaching out to share with me what they have learnt over the last year about God and church and I have been avoiding these conversations because I don't know what I have to contribute.
Writing this all down is my way of accepting where I am right now. That being done, I know I need to reach out to these people who care enough to do the same. I know in my heart they will not judge me just as Jesus would not judge me. I have the power to choose whether to continue to shut myself off or whether to venture outside and start engaging and talking to God again.
I write this as a an act of self-help to force me out of my rut. I also hope that it may encourage anyone else who is feeling like they are not doing the best job they could be at the moment that it is okay.
It is never too late to start over and get to know someone again as long as they are open to it. That is the great gift of the love that Jesus had for us that he created that unconditional relationship between us and God. It does not exist to be abused but rather is a great source of comfort in times like these.
Helen McIntosh is a 22 year old trying to create more than she consumes. Writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html