In my 45th year, I “came to my senses in a dark forest." Somehow my life had once again veered out of control, though not in the usual sense: not morally. In that sphere, I was looking pretty good. I was teaching at a university and was a published writer. After a challenging stint as a single mother, I’d made a go of it with a new marriage. Most important, after a decade of deliberate, repetitive sinning, I’d repented and returned to the church. I was bashfully pleased with myself and content with my life.
Could loneliness be as contagious as the H1N1 virus? Is loneliness dangerous to the public’s health? Usually we think of “infection” or “contagion” only in relation to medical viruses and define lonely people as those who keep their feelings to themselves.
I was speaking at a Methodist clergy gathering when a pastor told me
that at first the hotel had not been excited about hosting the group,
since its members weren’t going to run up any kind of bar bill. But then
the hotel manager noted that they had more than made that up in how
much was spent on dessert. The Methodists were welcome there anytime.
By the fourth century, you could become a Christian without risking your life. Church inevitably became entangled with private clubs, government posts and social networks. The urge to offer oneself wholly in martyrdom never diminished, however, and a movement was born. Men and women left civilization for an adventure of “living martyrdom” in the deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine.
As a Presbyterian pastor, my husband, Bob, had always been sympathetic when a parishioner became trapped by dementia. His views on dealing with dementia had been shaped by his father, a man of deep Christian faith and an active layman.
Accumulation of wealth beyond meeting our basic needs doesn’t make us more content, studies show. Dr. Michael Finkelstein says that contentment takes practice. Think back on a time when you felt a sense of contentment, he says—it likely didn’t come from material possessions. “Our task is to simply discover where [contentment] resides” and focus on those times and places. It helps to “practice thinking, believing, and saying that you’re grateful and thankful for what you’ve been given” (excerpt from Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness in Utne, July).