J. Marshall Jenkins

Author, Therapist, Spiritual Director

Loneliness Discovers Christmas Hope

Loneliness can be your generous guide if she accompanies you this holiday season.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

We yearn for right relationships.  Loneliness, on the other hand, acutely senses whatever blocks relationships.  Christmas emerges from a biblical story that begins in Eden. There human willfulness introduces the obstacles that plague us, such as shame, blame, and self-seeking.  Lonely people exquisitely feel the universal tragedy.

Of course, loneliness has its own confusions.  During Christmas season services after marital separation, for example, I thought myself the sole failure amid people who seemed to have it all together. They smiled as their rosy-cheeked, curly-haired children wiggled in the pews.  Later, back in my therapy office, visits from such people with disguised domestic torments reminded me how wrong I was. All of us bear our crosses.

Nevertheless, loneliness uncovers truth obscured by pride and fear.  With the decline and fall of my marriage fell a heroic and romantic story in which will power, resourcefulness, and love could get us through.  Moreover, this fiction insisted that our faithfulness to God and each other could never let the marriage fail.

After the collapse, loneliness declared like a prophet that right relationship required more than doing it right.  It required grace.  Loneliness assigned a new task: In solitude, learn to open those fists and receive grace.  My story became one of receiving God’s love.

At a cosmic level, Christmas begins such a story of grace in terms no mortal could contrive: A child born in the inn’s backyard stable to parents seen as only census numbers by the empire.  That child overcomes the empire, not by management and coercion, but by meek vulnerability and audacious love.

My life is so much better now.  I relinquished the welfare of my ex-wife and son into the hands of God who held them all along. Now they seem OK, and our relationship improved. 

Having redoubled my spiritual focus and practices, God opened my heart through years of solitude and painful Christmases.  Receiving God’s love in solitude for years freed me to love and marry the most lovely woman I ever knew and taught me how to receive her love as grace. Just as no mortal would likely predict the Christmas story as a way grace plays out in history, I would never have imagined that grace would take me through divorce and lonely Christmases to get to the right relationship God had in mind.

It is not a righteousness you achieve, but one you receive.  It does not go by the story line you have in mind any more than anyone imagined the savior’s coming as he did.    Watch for him through the lens of a loneliness that dares hope for things unseen.  Let go of the story that traps you.  Love Christ in friend, stranger, and enemy even as you await his coming.  Your Christmas story will unfold.

J. Marshall Jenkins

About J. Marshall Jenkins

J. Marshall Jenkins is an author, psychotherapist, teacher, and spiritual director. For several years he has been writing on the Beatitudes for people in emotional pain, publishing biweekly here on his Beatitudes Blog at http://www.jmarshalljenkins.com. His newest book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Hope with the Beatitudes, is now available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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4 Replies

  1. Bob

    Marshall, your insights continue to shed clarity onto the human condition and God’s loving presence in our lives that leads us through our struggles. Well done! Thank you. Bob

    1. jmarshalljenkins.com

      Many thanks for the encouraging words, Bob!

  2. Carine Dorce

    Amen to that Marshall; making space in my heart through Centering Prayer and Allowing myself to receive. Excited to see what my Christmas story will look like as I let go of the stories that trapped me. Thank You!!!

    1. J. Marshall Jenkins

      Hope well stated, Carine. Will be praying with you!

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