She left an imprint. It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen her but memories flood my mind of the footprints she left on my 5-year-old heart. Time doesn’t remove those days; I remember her so very well.

My aunt was an interesting individual, small in stature, short grey hair, makeup-less, gruff and yet I know down deep underneath the tough exterior was a tender but very wounded heart. I remember at times she would have a cigarette or a piece of hay hanging from her lips as she walked with confidence; she didn’t care what anyone thought of her. She wasn’t interested in dressing pretty or talking sweetly. She ran a farm, drove an old 1970s van and had a way with words – no doubt where I learned a few cuss words. I gained my affection for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton from her. She was my “Nanie” and I loved her so very much. I looked up to her and loved being around her. She was different, independent and strong. Perhaps a little too strong.

I remember at the age of 5, she said she didn’t like to get to close to people because she had lost too many.

I remember what an impact it made on me, feeling sad that she thought she needed not to need anyone.

I knew that she didn’t really mean it. As the years passed she pushed me away along with many others. I was hurt and if I’m honest, even at 39, there are parts of me that wished she hadn’t gone away. She still lived 5 miles from my home but she just stopped reaching out in a multitude of ways. Perhaps she was protecting herself. She had lost both of her parents, siblings, a dear friend and a 2 year old nephew. She kept most at a distance as she did life alone — maybe it was safer or easier in her mind.

I remember being that way and there are still those moments where I fear allowing others to get too close. Whether it is the fear of rejection, abandonment, loss or a conglomerate of all of the above. This is what we do when we want to avoid pain, rejection, abandonment.

But self protection is a facade. Are we really able to escape pain or disappointment? Can we really avoid it? We can build fences around our homes and even our hearts but it doesn’t protect us from life’s uncertainties. We can’t lock pain out of our borders — it’s part of living life in a fallen world. Even with the slickest security, people can break into our hearts just as easily as someone can break into our homes.

Personally I got tired of trying to keep everyone out — it is exhausting and lonely. I learned over the years to keep the toxic people away and allow the ones who loved me to come closer. Even if that meant they were human enough to possibly hurt me. I must allow them to fail or disappoint for I too will fail them. But God fills in the gaps of their and my human inadequacies.

By allowing others in we receive the benefits of having our heavy arms held up during the storms like Aaron and Hur did for Moses. We sharpen one another when the things of this life dull us.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

My precious aunt thought that limiting her exposure to loving and being loved by others would barricade or at best limit pain’s ability to sneak in. I don’t think it did. Loneliness is not exactly pain free and neither is isolation. She passed away over a year ago and as I reflected on her I remembered the good memories of her. Sadly though, those memories stopped decades sooner than her life actually ended.

Life was never meant to be lived alone even with the potential of heartbreak. When God created the heavens and the earth He said it was good until He created man and said

“It is not good for man to be alone.”

I don’t think this is exclusive to man and wife but all humanity — man, woman and child. It is not good for any of us to be alone.

We were created to rejoice together and to mourn together. To struggle together. To walk together. To laugh together. To encourage one another. We are all fighting a battle. Everyone. We have all won some and we have all lost some. We have all lost someone. We all fear losing someone. We all long to be accepted. We all long to be known. We all long to be heard. We all long to be loved.

Pretending we don’t need these things – pretending we don’t need relationships, pretending we don’t hurt, pretending we don’t care what people think, pretending we are self sufficient, pretending we don’t need fellowship on this wild journey called life just makes the innate call of our soul to be known and loved sting more.

Pretending doesn’t remove truth.

It is not good to be alone.

If this is you, if you are or have tendencies to self protect — don’t.

Don’t. Don’t walk alone. Don’t pretend you don’t need someone. Let someone in…

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

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