Like a bird on a roof

Open spaces make us feel small. But God has not left us alone and lonely.

Jonathan D. Werre

Loneliness is inherent in the experience of the West. The wide-open spaces, the sheering sweep of the mountains, the endless stretches of highways. It’s as lonely in its effect as it is beautiful to the eye. Perhaps this is why some people carve their names into trees or write, “Dave was here,” on bathroom walls. The loneliness was crowding in on them, threatening them with their own smallness.

But such is our condition. We are born small, needy, dependent. That is why each of us discovers, as soon as we have even the most rudimentary self-awareness, the same thing—loneliness. That need for others, that need for connection. But needing does not guarantee receiving. Thus we do the apprehensive dance, a cautious dance drawing close to others in anxious hope yet afraid we might instead pull back in aching hurt.

This dance has as its cause our willful pulling back from God and his Word. For the loneliness of being disconnected from other humans is an echo of the Great Loneliness, the deadly disconnection from the triune God caused by sin.

So Christ entered our time and space and did his own dance. His life in perfect rhythm with God’s law for our sake. His death in the extreme rhythm of love in order to pay for our sin. Dying as he was born—not just as man, not just as God, but as both. And then rising again.

He enters, one by one, into our own time and space by Baptism, connecting us by water and Word to his death and resurrection, connecting us to himself by faith.

For loneliness has no place with our triune God, that perfect unity of relationship, the ultimate reality of being truly connected with another. In our Father’s house, lonely is a foreign word—an unintelligible word.

This is the house that Jesus went to prepare for us. The one he promises us at our baptism. The one he shares with us in the gospel. The one he connects us to in his Supper, a foretaste of the feasting and celebration in that house, a connection so real you can taste it.

But we are not home yet. Each Christian is caught between time and eternity, “like a bird alone on a roof” (Psalm 102:7). Not yet home in heaven, no longer at home on earth.

So Jesus taught us to ask for good friends and a godly spouse in the Fourth Petition. The Holy Spirit gathers us into a congregation. The Father makes us, by his grace, more grace-full in our apprehensive dance, learning to forgive, to set boundaries, to be authentic. We teach our children, “If you want to have friends, you have to be a friend.”

And God blesses it all. We are not alone. Thank you, Lord.

But still times of loneliness come. Maybe when you are traveling through the West or when you are lying awake in the dark or when you find that you have places to fit but no place to fit in. And you again learn the truth the psalmist revealed—that you are a bird on a roof. That the ultimate solution to us as birds on the roof is God’s angels, coming to help us fly off the roof. Soaring high. Soaring home. Where a discouraging word like lonely is never heard.

Jonathan Werre is pastor at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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Author: Jonathan D. Werre
Volume 104, Number 8
Issue: August 2017

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