Oh, it’s Hugh again, back after almost a year to continue my story. Two years have passed since I started learning about love — what it’s like to receive it and also to give it well. In this upcoming three-part series, I want to share some of my experiences with love along the way: from praying for love, to falling in love, to being surprised by finding real love. In my first guest blog, I established that the root of my identity is in being loved by God; this new series will cover the rocky journey of learning to rest in that love . . .

The year was 2021. My fellow students and I were finally heading back to an in-person semester at college after another wave of COVID had forced us online in the fall of 2020.

Surprisingly, I did not feel lonely during the lockdown when I had no choice but to be separated from all my friends. I had actually rejected a girl earlier that spring, so I certainly did not feel desperate for attention.

It was not until I was back in person at college, surrounded by peers again, that I felt the most miserably alone. We were back together, but we weren’t allowed to gather in groups of more than a few people outside. Masking was required virtually all the time, both indoors and out. Inside, every room had a sign on the wall dictating the maximum number of people allowed inside at any time; a room that could hold 10-12 people was now limited to only four.

My main circle of friends regularly occupied two windowless classrooms that were off the beaten trail, where we broke all the COVID rules: we took off our masks, we had more than the maximum number of people inside, and we most certainly did not stay six feet away from each other. This was the only way of staying sane.

Lots of bonding happened in those rooms, as well as plenty of laughs. Everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company, all of us relating with one another’s humor, experiences, and interests. But more often than not I felt like no one appreciated my presence — or noticed my absence. I couldn’t relate to so many of the jokes and the banter being exchanged.

I clearly remember one night, leaving the classroom after hours of laughter, and having the smile vanish from my face as soon as I shut the door behind me.

How is it that I could be in a room full of people whom I knew cared about me, yet I felt so alone? They all knew me, but they didn’t really know me.

Downhearted, I made my way through the dark, cold night back to my dorm room. Once there, I undressed, grabbed my journal, and got into bed to start writing.

I wrote a flashback to fourth grade when I found myself in a unique social situation. I was the sole 8-year-old in a classroom of mostly 10- to 12-year-olds. Thanks to this setup, I always found the kids my age immature, but the older kids didn’t want me to hang out with them. I often felt so alone, but I remember deciding that I liked the solitude of my predicament.

However, the truth of that memory is a bitter one. I continued writing:

The only person I have regular and completely open conversations with is 50 and hundreds of miles away. The next two people on this list are my age, and they are both hundreds of miles away and often busy. In the past few days, I have become acutely aware of the fact that I seem to be the only one whom I know, on this campus or in the US as a whole, who can relate to me as much as I wish one could. How I wish there could be someone here, of a similar position in life, with whom I could fully relate. Someone with whom I could bare my soul, with whom I could freely express brotherly intimacy — a soul brother, one could say. That is what I crave. Someone with the same values that matter.

Writing all of this in my bed, I had a certain friend as a potential soul brother in mind. I had met him a year and a half earlier, befriending him after developing a crush on him.

He and I had been growing closer that spring, thanks to shared times in our COVID hideouts. He expressed care through touch, with a love for hugs that mirrored mine. He valued time with friends, just like I did, and he was also a Christian.

I had asked God to make that friendship flourish, and that he and others would be able to fill the “soul brother-shaped” void I had been feeling on campus. And God was very quick to respond to that prayer.

To be continued . . .

How did you cope with the loneliness of the pandemic? Have you prayed for something like a “soul brother,” and has God answered your prayer?

About the Author

  • Lifelong celibacy can be excruciatingly lonely to the point it can make a person feel like a stranger even among friends. I’ll be interested to see how he finishes the story.

  • Wow brother, I sure enjoyed reading your post! You are very talented in writing.

    I have known many people in life, having served at a Christian Service organization, in my home church etc. However, it was mostly casual, “safe subjects” type of friendships. I longed for a soul brother, having seen others experience such. But it seemed elusive and out of reach…

    That is, until “he” entered into my life, and I got surprised by joy. My Heavenly Father provided him in a perfect time. It’s become the most amazing, beautiful, life-giving brotherhood and we both believe that God has allowed our paths to cross in this life, and this gift from His hand will carry on into eternity.

    I had to be “in God’s waiting room” and let Him provide in His time and way. It’s hard to be patient, and not do things in my own strength, but let God prepare the ground by making me more into the image of His Son first, so when that “soul brother” arrived, it’s been awesome.

    I look forward to reading your future posts!

    • Hey! No spoilers!

      More seriously, thank you for the compliments! I’m looking forward to sharing a bit more of my story with you all.

  • The yearning reminds me of Adam before Eve was created by God. A soul brother sounds like a wonderful idea.

    I also love the honesty: “befriending him after developing a crush on him” –

    a few of my friendships (even very pleasant conversations with strangers) have begun in this way. I wonder what that means about our desires.

    • That term, soul brother, was invented by some of the Yobbers way back when. It’s supposed to represent the spiritual brother version of a soulmate. It’s a type of friendship I think we are all meant to have.

      Thank you for your affirmation. My life has always gone better when I have been able to be honest with myself, and with God. Honesty really is the best policy!

  • I love your writing! Thanks for coming back for another go, Hugh. Eager to see how this story unfolds. I feel all the feels for this longing you describe. Not sure I’ve ever used that language of “soul brother” before, but I like it a lot.

    My heart goes out to anyone who was in school during the height of COVID. I can’t imagine how that must have thrown off things relationally. Interesting to hear, though, how you didn’t mind it at first! Looking forward to what comes next…

    • Thank you, Tom! I’m grateful again for the opportunity to share part of my story. I hope it can be a blessing to those who read it. Covid definitely was a strange time. Looking back now, it all seems like a fever dream.

  • Hugh, I have felt the lonely ache that comes with life. Thanks for sharing your story! Sharing your feelings will help you to better understand, process, and encourage others. I serve as a chaplain/minister and many people are fundamentally lonely and feel isolated. Here’s a question for you: how does your loneliness and desire for connection impact how you relate and reach out to others? When I experience loneliness–this is a moment to consider others! Loneliness and lack of connection tries to draw us inward instead of outward. I imagine Jesus was lonely at times. He has perfection fellowship with His Father, but did even His disciples understand and view Him as He desired?
    I’ve faced long seasons of loneliness in my life. It’s hard. Yet, consider that one day when we pass into eternity or Christ returns, that all the grief, sorrow, separation, and loneliness will be gone! That hope is what is sustaining me presently in my own season of difficulty. I know that it won’t always be this way and that what is coming is far better! May God’s presence and grace sustain and encourage you on your journey! I write about issues of the faith journey at http://www.wordsofencouragementinchrist.com. Send me a message or share any ideas that will help me to encourage you and others!

  • Every day, in keeping with Jesus’s call to be persistent in prayer, for like 6? years now I have prayed for friendship. That prayer has been answered at so many levels I never would have thought possible; including by one guy who seems to have started a similar prayer around the same time.

    However, I still don’t know if I have a “soul-brother”. Or maybe I do. I’m honestly not sure what that would look like or if one person can embody that.

    As for Covid, I was blessed to have God call me to live with a bunch of guys for another year (even though I wasn’t really enjoying it) at the beginning of 2020. One, they kept me sane because I saw them and others that I wouldn’t have seen if I was living at home. Two, they became way better brothers to me that year.

  • Hugh, like many people here I have prayed that prayer before! I have seen God’s answer in the form of of several loving male friends over the years, including one guy I will call “Brandon” I wrote about on this blog.

    My friendship with Brandon started 45 years ago (Yes I am that old.) We are still friends today and we hug when we see each other! I am also friends with his 21 year old son who recently hugged me, shared his joys and sorrows, and sincerely asked my advice. A few weeks ago his daughter told me she was surprised at how she saw in me so many of her father’s mannerisms and speech patterns. I had to admit that both Brandon and I had influenced each other so much that we even subconsciously started picking up each other’s way of talking and gesturing.

    I don’t know how your friendship with the guy in this story will turn out, but I pray that God will give you a similar blessing of fulfilling life-long friendship with a real soul brother.

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