Women from every culture and every age have asked that question. Am I the ONLY one? I think because we are scattered around the world and may not see others like ourselves very often, we may be prone to ask this question more often than our sisters at home.
- Am I the only one who cannot seem to speak in this language so others can understand me?
- Am I the only one who cannot stop grieving for a family member whose funeral came and went without me?
- Am I the only one whose husband started well, but ended up in the arms of a local woman?
- Am I the only one to get angry when every time I have a moment alone I am interrupted?
- Am I the only one with a child I cannot seem to homeschool?
- Am I the only one who cannot breastfeed her baby?
- Am I the only one who thought she knew what she was doing when she left home, but has experienced devastating disappointments?
The list could go on and on. Many of the ways we feel like we are the only one, are things that are common to womanhood. But we don’t hear others talk about them. Other expat team members may have gone through that particular loneliness, but it never comes up in conversation. So you don’t know that they felt that way too. The local women don’t talk about these feelings of aloneness to you. They think you would never understand. So we go on, day after day with an aching aloneness that could be comforted if we would open up and risk being vulnerable.There was a group of women in a limited access country who met together fortnightly to compare notes about what they had tried, or learned, to help them through their difficult season of menopause. They had a wide variety of symptoms, yet all were rooted in the same cause: hormonal imbalance due to menopause. They were such a great help to each other. They laughed and cried a lot, and prayed for each other too. Their support kept them all functioning, kept their marriages strong, and enabled them to stay on the field.
Some things that make us feel like we are the only one require accurate information and professional help. For me, that special area was educating our boys. I tried to homeschool our youngest son for kindergarten. It didn’t work. Boarding school was not an option for us. Later, when we lived in another country, he was struggling at the international school. We tried everything we could to help him learn. Every evening was a trial to get him through homework that should have been work finished in class. He was trying hard, but so slow! I was determined to see him finish his work so we often ended the evening in total frustration.
Our first ray of light came from a counselor. “I don’t know what the problem is,” she said, “but he is very well-intentioned. Know that he is trying his best.” It took another nine months till he was finally correctly diagnosed with learning differences, and started on proper therapy to overcome the worst of the deficits. Good information and proper professional help made all the difference for us.
Let’s talk about isolation. It’s real, but you are not the only one who has faced it. I have heard women weeping because they were lonely for a friend to contact. I hope that every one of you has at least a few people in your home country who understand you and support you. Not just as a PW, but as a person.
We are so blessed to be serving overseas in a time of amazingly fast communications. The internet and phone services have gotten so good that even in rather remote places there are ways to access fast communication. But they are useless if there is no one to contact. And remember: the person who becomes your most faithful homeside contact may not be the person you’d expect.
My confidential prayer group from home now has a private website. That means we have very quick access to others who will pray fervently for us. This is so encouraging, especially when needs arise suddenly. We can all pray for the same people, and because of our locations, pray round the clock. What a wonderful way to connect.
One more thought on those lonely seasons. Some of my readers discover new intimacy with God when human intimacy disappears. Perhaps that will happen to you.
No, sister, you are not the only one whose husband started out well on the field and later turned to the arms of a local. It is a story far too often repeated. You, as a wife, feel abandoned, angry, and confused. You wonder if you should tell anyone because you know that will mean a complete upheaval of your lives.
But here is the truth: the sooner you seek help from your leaders, the more possible reconciliation and healing can happen. And, whether or not your marriage can be restored, you and your children need the support and help of professionals, especially since you are overseas. Don’t try to handle this on your own. You need help.
Some of our PW sisters live and serve in very dark places. It’s not unusual to feel the weight of that. Truly you may be the only one in that place at this time. You may be the one breaking up the hard soil preparing it to receive the seed. Or you may be sowing the seed for a great harvest to follow. You may feel like the little you are able to do for such a vast need could never be enough. I have met women with all of those emotions. But like Esther, you may be there for such a time as this.
Like Elijah you may feel you are the only one left and they are trying to kill you too. God so mercifully sustained Elijah with water and bread and rest, and then with His presence in a still small voice. God told Elijah that He had reserved 7,000 for Himself (I Kings 19). Ask God for His comfort and His word to strengthen you for your assignment. Maybe he will show you some hidden allies too.
Remember, too, that there are many things that your sisters back home will never know or understand. These can pile up and eat away at your peace. To paraphrase Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, we are not in Kansas anymore.
Exactly! This is not Kansas anymore, but how hard it is to get our friends back home to understand that. One lady from our home country wrote to my husband, hoping that we were having a nice Spring. Not likely! It is 90 or more degrees every day.
Whatever it is that makes you cry, “Am I the ONLY One?”, be assured, you are NOT the only one. Your particular situation may vary in details, but what you are experiencing is common to many more women than you can imagine. Why not take the risk and ask someone around you? You may be pleasantly surprised with who can help you not feel so isolated.
You are not alone! We have felt that way and are still serving. You can too.
Why not leave a comment about your own answers to loneliness?
See The Blank Stare for help in finding ways to communicate your passion to friends and family back home.