Funny thing- I tried to find the perfect picture for this blog post by doing a google image search for “alone” but all the pictures that came up were of sadness and despair. Not quite the type of pictures I was looking for. Being alone has a negative stereotype of being a time of sorrowful involuntary exclusion from those around you or society in general. However, when you are happy with who you are in Christ then being by yourself won’t bother you because you know you are never alone when He lives within you.
I have learned this lesson during this current time period of Ramadan in Morocco. Ramadan is a time period of fasting for Muslims and because Morocco is a majority Muslim country, most of the people in the country are now fasting together. To Moroccans, the occasion of Ramadan is treated somewhat like an annual celebration. During the first few days, people passed me saying, “Mabruk Ramadan/Happy Ramadan” in a celebratory voice. Everyday, families eagerly gather together during evening time to break their fasts with meals larger than normal and loved ones they may have not seen for awhile. For me, however, it’s felt like a party that everyone else is having fun in except for myself, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Although I respect the Islam religion, I disagree with many of it’s principles and, as a follower of Christ, have chosen to not participate in the festivities of Ramadan. This makes my volunteer experience quite different from other volunteers who have used Ramadan as an opportunity to integrate with the members of their communities. I disagree with this because I don’t believe that religious fasting should be used as a means to grow closer to humanity nor should it be treated as an activity. Fasting, if done properly, is a time to feel the creator of the Universe in a way normally not felt by others on this Earth. It is a time of peace where you have the opportunity to feel the love of God in solitude like no other. The joy and strength that comes from this is somewhat indescribable. It’s a practice that should not be taken lightly. I want the people in Morocco to get to know me for who I truly am. If I were in America, I would not be fasting for Ramadan, so why should I do it now just because I am in Morocco? When you fast, it should be done for God not for other people.
The choice I have made to not participate has left me in a state of solitude. I am alone a lot lately. Yet, for the first time in my life, I am learning what it truly means to be alone but not feel lonely. Before Christ, I can recall the need to always find someone to hang out with on Friday nights and the thought of going to the movies by myself was so far removed from my mind. Since I wasn’t content with myself deep down, I preferred the company of others over my own. The downside to doing this is that it caused me to lower my standards in friendships and waste valuable time in life that I could have spent either growing strength in myself through Christ or nurturing the relationships in my life that truly did matter. The people that I hung out with didn’t care for me as much as I did for them and when trouble hits the fan, it’s easy to find out who is really there for you in life. Nevertheless, this is no longer the case for me because I have found love and true friendship in Christ who lives within me. This saves so much more time and energy than my old way of entertaining relationships that I knew weren’t best for me in the long run.
Looking back on it, I think I was also unhappy being alone because I defined happiness according to the world’s standards and was living my life in adherence to those guidelines. Additionally, there were people I hadn’t forgiven and because of that I had trouble forgiving myself for the wrongs in my own life. This made being alone hard because I had to face reality with no distractions. At the time, I was naive to my unhappiness and if you were to ask me: “how do you feel about your life right now?” I probably would have responded stating how content I was. However, truth is, I wasn’t. Although money, successful careers, and an endless education may provide you with temporary happiness these things will never truly fulfill you. Why do you think millionaires and celebrities commit suicide and end up in rehab? Because the things that the world teaches you are important, in reality, really aren’t. At some point in time, even millionaires and celebrities must deal with being alone and all that is present is the thoughts and worries of life that fame and fortune can’t cover up. If you haven’t truly dealt with these worries, they can attack you at your worst. I know because I have been there. They are the kind of worries that keep us planning busy schedules so we don’t have to face how we really feel about life. They are also the kind of worries that cause us to feel “lonely” when we really aren’t alone because we have Christ right there with us but are just too blind to see it.
Overall, I am thankful for this time to be without others during Ramadan. I know I will come out of it stronger and more faithful. After the people in my community finish their time period of fasting, I am sure I will integrate with those that God intends for me to meet. In the meantime, I will just enjoy this time of solitude.
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