There are a few variations, but many will remember the nursery rhyme, The Farmer in the Dell (here’s one way it has been sung).
For the uninitiated, the song is little more than a string of relationships. The Farmer takes a wife, who takes a child, who takes a nurse, who takes a cow, who takes a dog, who takes a cat, who takes a rat, who takes the cheese. The cheese stands alone.
The one that stands alone, the cheese, is also the only one incapable of relationship. The cheese is an inanimate object. It doesn’t laugh or sing or jump or play. It doesn’t feel or wish or hope. The cheese just is. And that’s okay…for cheese.
Alone can be hard for us living, breathing creatures. We are made for relationship and “alone” is the absence of what we are most wired to be…together.
This is part of what is so significant about Jesus being alone in the wilderness for the forty days we commemorate with Lent. Cut off. Isolated. Deprived of the life-giving energy of connecting with others.
It is also the aloneness Jesus will again encounter on the cross. Though he is surrounded by others as he suffers and dies, he is still very much alone.
Or is he?
Scripture recounts a number of times when Jesus withdraws to a lonely place. Luke puts it most succinctly, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) Did Jesus withdraw just to get some rest? Just to catch up on email or check on the progress of his Trivia Crack games? Just to get some distance from the constant demands of others?
It seems to me that Jesus withdraws to be alone, so that he can be alone with God.
This is different. This is an intentional drawing away from others while drawing nearer to God. And this seems to fly in the face of everything I have come to know about God.
Isn’t God in others? Don’t I draw nearer to God by deepening my relationships with the people around me? Don’t I believe “we are better together”?
The root of our relatedness to others is our personal connection to God. The reason we pour ourselves out, give ourselves away, share who we are and what we are, is grounded in the relationship we build with God.
And sometimes we need to be alone to fully embrace that relationship. We need to withdraw. We need to take time to center ourselves. We need to stand alone. Not as inanimate objects, but as an individual fully present with God.
Alone and present.
Alone and connected.
This takes practice. And so we have Lent to experience what it is to stand alone…alone with.
Life is better together (especially when together means alone with God),
Check out a few of my friends taking this journey with me…