My Risky Confession – It’s Not What You Think

Today I am going to confess.  Today I am going to be vulnerable.  What I have to say may come as no shock at all or it may surprise you a bit.

But first, a bit of the back story.

Shortly after attending the re:create conference this past February I published this post entitled “Woe Is Me“.  Even in this post, I came short of telling the whole story.

I almost revealed on a post by my friend Mandy Thompson in her comments

But, when my friend and mentor Randy Elrod posed the question, “what one word describes you”, one word jumped to the forefront.  I was too afraid to write it down.  What if someone sees it?

Over the past month I’ve seen story after story – blog after blog – post after post … all sounding the same theme – a need for true, authentic community.

Chris talked about it here.
Randy had a  post about it here and here.
Michael nailed me here and here.

Because, believe it or not … the one word that shouted in my inner-being was:

LONELY.  I – am – lonely.

Phew.  There.  I said it.  (rather, I typed it).

How can I even say this?  I’ve got an awesome wife.  I have four wonderful kids.  I work at an incredible church and truly enjoy the fellowship and company of my co-workers.

Yet … at the end of the day, outside of my relationship with my wife … I can’t say that I’m sure I’ve got those deep, firm relationships that weather the storms.

We live in a season of life where we have tons of friend-acquaintances … from the families we hang with at the ball fields to friends from church.  But not the kind of relationships where you intentionally, frequently, sit and share life on a deeper, more intimate level.

Granted, I’ve got a few buddies on IM/Twitter who probably know more about what’s in my heart than ANYONE who lives here.  And there is huge value in that.  But I am ready to invest in a connection where I can truly be myself – be real, and be that for someone back.  And I’d go so far to say it’s not for lack of trying – I’ve definitely reached out, several times, trying to build those relationships that have potential to be the real David/Jonathan … but either life is too busy or perhaps my personality is too freaking strong.  I have to ask the hard questions – what in my personality and persona would cause someone to want to walk the other way, to shy away from a close bond, or to be pushed away?

I don’t share this for sympathy.  I share it because it needs to be said.  I share it because it’s a public confession and the first step in my resolve to proactively build a better, deeper community.  I share it because I suspect someone else feels the same way.

So yes – I’m a guy who is a known “gatherer”.  I’m on stage in front of 1500+ people every week.  I have a blog that reaches thousands and I can always generate a discussion through social media.  I have a big group of Twitter and Facebook followers.

Yet, I’m lonely.

 

 

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  • Fred,

    Thank you for sharing this – it is a beautiful post because I see this as a point from which you can move forward. I’ve experienced that starting point with a different scenario recently and I encourage you to leap from this point.

    I can identify with your story because I was there a few years ago. The area I live in is very transient and temporary, not just in military life but in others as well. Getting close companions has been a challenge. It’s something I’ve had to work hard at. At the end of the day, God has provided for me in this area, and I know he can do the same for you.

    – BP

    • Bryan
      Thanks bro … I appreciate your encouragement! It’s definitely a starting point – I know God has brought me to this place of restlessness, awareness (well, I’ve been there a long time), and more importantly, prompting … to make a difference.

  • I think this is a problem for most/all leaders, especially in church. I think social media is really helping that, especially when it leads to phone calls and growing friendships. I definitely am glad to have that connection you with you, man.
    But, I totally relate to the loneliness locally. For me, this year, I’ve started discipling a couple guys at a time, and I have to say, its been a big help in that area.

    • Gary,
      Yeah, Michael Hyatt’s post talked about a survey showing 70% of those in pastoral leadership don’t have close friends, at least, locally. I hated to even write this because I wouldn’t want anyone locally to think I thought of them as any “less” than a close friend – it’s not about a person, it’s about the time invested.

      That’s awesome about the mentoring. I’ve started a small group (Life on Life/Journey Group) with a handful of guys and want to see that grow as well.

  • Mary

    My husband and I have one couple we have that sort of relationship with, but they live 350 miles away from us. We stay in regular contact with them and visit at least 4 times a year.

    But where we live now, nada. We have really worked hard in the last year to try to cultivate some relationships. We have gotten closer to several people, but still don’t feel like we have that same intimacy.

    • Mary,
      Thanks for sharing – 350 miles is too far, eh? Keep trying. I find that I wanting those relationships (couples > couples) that Joy and I can enjoy together with another couple (and honestly, they are there if we just made TIME for them, and vice versa), but also, individually … which may not always be the same people.

  • FreedbyJC

    How many times have we (as leaders) told His people that when we get all concerned about our ‘insides’ it is time to focus our spiritual and physical energies out. Outside our ‘known’ universe (family, friends, colleagues) and into the unknown. We get ourselves ‘too full’ and we need to pour out all the good stuff that He has filled us with on those He is seeking to reach.

    The best wine kept too long in the barrel turns to vinegar. We need to empty our vessels so He can refill it for us.

    • William,
      I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. Since the post is a “I’m lonely” confession, are you saying that I’m too focused on my insides, and should focus more outward? ‘Cause if so, I dunno how much more I’ve got to give!

      • FreedbyJC

        Oh no!!!! Get rid of the good and cling to the great…Do not look to doing more…do less…prioritize, zone in and keep looking for the one that feeds you as you feed it.

  • You’re preaching to me, Fred. I have held off on posting something for a while, but your post here was what I needed to finish it. I believe the Lord is beginning to awaken the church to this problem within.
    I linked my post with yours. Hope it’s ok.

  • I love your vulnerability and transparency. I also love your quote, “But I am ready to invest in a connection where I can truly be myself – be real, and be that for someone back.” Thanks for sharing!

    • Eric, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it.

  • Fred – this is beautiful, raw and honest; I love it! You were speaking to me, too. I have many friend/aquaintances yet only feel I have 1 true deep connection. And that is with my best friend Leslie (and Jesus, of course).

    I’m a strong personality, too – and maybe that is why I seem to circle the rim of relationships, but never fully drink.

    I’m really going to pray about this and seek God for some wisdom and insight.

    Thank you for opening up this sore spot!

    Blessings,

    Lesa

    • Lesa,
      Thanks for chiming in. I’ve tried to “tone down” my personality in the past .. it lasts a few hours, and I’m more depressed and discouraged than when I’m just myself. Sure, there are things I can work on – listening more than talking, not interrupting, taking time to feel what others feel … all which would make ANYONE a better friend. I hope to salvage those things in the future.

  • Robin

    Hey Fred: Man, do I get it! Those relationships are few and far between and are definitely gifts from God. Oddly, I think strong, capable individuals are more susceptible to loneliness. The potential (and need) for deep relationships just doesn’t seem as obivious on the outside. Others don’t take advantage of an opportunity to go deeper because they figure it doesn’t make that much difference. I’ll be praying that God sends that gift of a soul friend to you and that you will recognize it when it arrives! Many blessings, brother!

    • thanks Robin –
      I think on thing I didn’t make clear enough is that it’s quite possible the relationship already exists – it’s just not nourished, or made time for … lots of ideas, thanks!

      PS: we miss you guys!

  • Fred,

    I truly, truly empathize and totally understand.

    Randy

    • Randy,
      Thanks my friend – you’ve found a way out, and I know that wasn’t an easy journey.

  • I just want to take what I’ve learned through my own lonliness and apply it in my relationships with others. The problem I’ve been seeing, though, is how often others seem to shy away from that deeper relationship Christ desires us to have. Jonathan was more precious to David than women were. And how about “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6)? We shy away from those, too.

    I’m tired of being afraid of being judged or rejected when I’m not doing good, and accepted when I’m thriving. I will be endeavoring to do my part to make a difference.

  • Fred,
    Thanks for sharing. I can relate. It’s always struck me as “funny” how we in ministry can be around people all the time, investing in people, but still feel that nag of loneliness, wondering who will be there as we are often present for others. We were fortunate to develop some very dear true friendships in our first church, but haven’t been as fortunate lately. In our last ministry, it seemed that even as we needed true friendship, others already had it.

    Perhaps you are right in that they already exist, but need to be nurtured. I don’t know about you, but find that hard to do. As we wait for our next ministry, we are hopeful it will come with the opportunity to develop some true friendships as you spoke about. I hope that God will provide for you in this way, too. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

  • Thanks for being so vulnerable with this, Fred. Very helpful and exactly what I needed to hear.

    • David,
      Thanks man … my hope in posting was that the folks who needed to “hear it” would be encouraged.

  • Victor Estrada

    Fred, thanks for sharing your heart bro. I think this is one of those things that a lot of us in ministry struggle with, myself included. I work at a rather large church with a large staff of amazing people and a congregation that is great too… But I feel the same way, lonely. I think alot like you I’ve tried to seek out those friendships with different people over the years just to have it not pan out the way I had hoped after a while. I think that’s one of the reasons that this social media thing and blogs (even though I haven’t touched mine in a long time) are so important to us. You said it, there are some people that I know through social media that know me better than anyone at my church. It sucks but it’s true. Maybe one of the reasons for that is its someone who thinks like you and how you work and process things and 2) it’s someone outside of your bubble who you can actually be honest with about how your feeling and all without worrying that you’re maligning your church or someone you both know. As an example, I don’t think I would ever admit it to people at my church that I’m lonely because I don’t know how they would respond but here I am on a website from a guy on the other side of the country admitting one of my deepest longings…

    Anyway, I think I could write on this for a while so I’m gonna stop myself and say I’m with you and thanks for being one of those guys for me. Even though you and I don’t get to talk that often and have never met I appreciate you and your heart. Thanks for being one of my friends Fred.

    – Vic

    • Victor,
      Man, thanks for chiming in. You know, you are in the group of about 10-12 bloggers that sort of started when I did … I remember having your blog right in there, along w/ a few others.

      I am so grateful you found a spot to vent, to agree, to confess … we need to reconnect via IM or Skype … so maybe our communications can be more often!

  • Tracie

    FRED! This one of my favorite posts of yours. I am not sure if someone already put this, but I think we all have walls up that keep us lonely. If you ever want to talk about ear surgery I can help you with that. 🙂 And how it is super hard to get to the gym!

    • Tracie,
      Thanks a ton. I agree about the walls. Let’s tear them down.

    • Thanks, Fred! I believe that the more people talk about the need for authenticity and are truly open in their own lives (especially leaders), the more people will begin to shift their paradigms in that direction. I have ONE heart-to-heart friend here in LA and I am so, so thankful for the relationship. I have definitely experienced the same loneliness, though, especially on the mission field. Praying for you and your family! Thanks, again, for being REAL! 🙂

  • I get it, or shall I say, WE get it, we talk about this sort of thing often. I think it’s something the devil is always maximizing. If he can get us to feel disconnected or lonely he then has a part of our minds. He KNOWS that when Christians are truly in unity and connection then kingdom stuff really happens.
    For sure one of my favorite posts by you. I almost wrote a post about this last week but chickened out!
    Thanks!

  • Sorry, I’m a little behind on the post, but I feel ya, Fred!

    In our society you can feel so close to people, yet so distant. I’m definitely there with ya!