One of the Few: Loneliness in the City
When I left the Bible Belt for the Big Apple, I left a sanctuary for a lion’s den. Just as atheists feel like pariahs in Nashville, I feel like an outsider in New York. And I can’t tell you how happy I am about it. In Nashville, guys could get dates from pretty girls within earshot by talking about the sanctity of marriage; in New York, most eavesdropping locals would call the same hypothetical young men idealists or idiots. In Nashville, I could walk into any coffee shop and see one Bible for every three mugs; in New York, reading the Bible for New Testament class garners sideways stares from my fellow Starbucks customers.
I’m no longer one of the many; I am one of the few.
How can a city associated with money and success make me happier than a city associated with Christian faith? When I told my friends I’d be transferring from my southern school to a school in New York City, all of their concerns came back to the same issue of isolation and loneliness. “How will you find a church?” “Are you sure you can stay close to God in a city that’s so far from Him?” “I know you’re going to a Christian school, but are you sure you will have the same kind of community you had here?” Their well-intentioned questions continued. Little did they know that loneliness–their primary concern–would be what saved me.
By embracing my role as one of the few, I’ve realized that (contrary to what people often told me) my faith in God has never been a result of my environment. My community enriched my faith, but it didn’t owe its existence to anyone other than the Holy Spirit. I may go to a Christian school here in New York, but my faith has been far more independent for the past five months than it has been in my whole life.
That being said, as one of the few, I have sought out other strangers like myself. I’ve found many at The King’s College, but more importantly, I’ve found them at my church.
I’m beginning to see that being a stranger draws me closer to God and to His people. I never would have guessed that embracing loneliness would lead me to closer community, but it has. God wanted me here for a reason. I may not be able to see the full picture, but for now I aim to enjoy Him and glorify Him to the best of my abilities, whether I’m surrounded by hundreds of voices praising His name or sitting alone in silence.
The Lord’s calling makes us strangers in the world, but this estrangement is exactly what brings Him glory. We are sojourners and exiles, but above all, we are His.
“[C]ome to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:4, 9
Anna Wilhem is a guest writer for the Empire State Tribune.