I genuinely cannot remember the last time I spent so much time by myself. This is coming from an introverted Enneagram 2 who thrives on quiet reading time and making banana bread so I can’t imagine how my hyper-extroverted friends are doing. We’re on, what…week four, five, 382 of quarantine and social distancing? Whatever the actual length of time is, I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited to go for picnics with our friends, coffee dates, and even getting back to work.
I know I am.
I moved from Athens to Chattanooga about a week before the entire city shut down. I’m currently living in a little apartment above my friend’s ceramic studio by myself (unless you count my cat, Cricket). If you know me, you know loneliness is one of my greatest fears so needless to say, this has been a challenging time. As I mentioned earlier, while I love hanging out with friends and going on adventures, I’m a homebody at heart so the first couple weeks were great. I gardened, I baked bread, tried new recipes, wrote letters, finally caught up on This Is Us, revived my study of Ukrainian…then I started to run out of things to do. I got to the point of desperation that I started reading Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell (and subsequently remembered why I dropped out of college physics). My ability to distract myself started to diminish which is when the loneliness started to set in.
One of my favorite Buczynsky family traditions is that when we move into a new space, before we paint and decorate and build all the Ikea furniture, we cover the walls in Scripture and words we feel God press to our hearts. Sanctuary was the word my dad prayed over my new space and Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” is my mom’s almost constant prayer for my siblings and I. Both of these seemed especially poignant during this time.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that “As soon as we are fully conscious, we discover loneliness.” I think by now most of us have reached that point of consciousness. Our distractions have ceased to distract us and now we are sitting quietly and alone with our thoughts for much longer than we, or at least I, may ever have before.
A recent Times article said “This is a stillness, not of rest, but of poised, anxious sorrow.” which brings me back to the words written on the walls of my new home. A sanctuary is typically understood to be a place of safety or refuge but if I’m honest, for a while my apartment felt more like a place of stress and anxiety, even fear and I felt like my standing was anything but strong.
It was in this place though that God met me. Looking through Scripture, this is very in keeping with God’s character. He often shows up when His children have reached the end of their rope. He met me in my uncomfortable stillness and offered me the alternative of resting in Him. Where I felt anxious and fretful, He offered peace. He transformed this time into a Sabbath, a time of rest and of worship. I won’t go into the details of how, I’m not even sure I could articulate it, but I’m also not sure it would be relevant as God will work in your life differently than He did in mine because He knows the innermost workings and desires of our being and will meet us each there…if we allow Him to enter into that space.
Standing strong in the Lord during this time of uncertainty has been a challenge for someone who likes to have the answers, as has resting in Him when I like to have control, but in that challenge I’m learning to trust, a lesson I’ve wrestled with my whole life. This space has become a place where I’ve finally had the time and margin to, as my pastor says, “recalibrate” my life and my pace with God’s will. A place to breathe and be with Him.
I don’t want to diminish the hardness of this time. I actually just stopped writing a minute ago to watch a video that one of my best friends in the whole world sent me of her first dance that took place with just her and her new husband in their apartment with a phone propped up to capture a moment that should have been filled with all of those that love them.
But here’s my challenge to myself and to all of us. As things begin to open up and life begins to look like it did before, try to hold on to the good that came out of this time of stillness and slowness. I’m holding onto the deepened relationships with my family, the refound intentionality in my friendships, the joy in the little things like writing letters and discovering God through nature. Most of all though, I’m clinging to the beauty of stillness, standing strong in and before my Creator, and the sweet intimacy that can only be found in that place, in that sanctuary.
Stand firm in the Lord my friends and He will be your sanctuary.
Today’s guest writer is Natalie Buczynsky. Natalie is a 24 year old Georgia girl currently living in Chattanooga, TN. You can usually find her in the garden, trying new recipes with friends, or reading her latest library haul. Three things she’s currently obsessed with are Trader Joe’s, dirty chai lattes, and early morning quiet times. You can reach Natalie by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.