In “Eleanor Rigby” The Beatles inquire about “all the lonely people” and wondered “where do they all come from?” They asked, “where do they all belong?”
Eleanor Rigby longs for love, marriage and happiness. She “picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been.” She stares out her window, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?” Eleanor Rigby’s “Prince Charming” never comes and Eleanor is finally laid to rest in the church cemetery.
Even Father McKenzie succumbs to loneliness and discouragement as he observes nobody hears and nobody cares.
Are Lennon and McCartney taking a subtle swipe at the great institutions of marriage and the church? Perhaps, but more likely, they’re simply observing the human condition.
There are many lost and lonely people. There are teenagers who can’t seem to fit in with their peers. There are mid-lifers who wonder if the best of life has passed them by, and of course there are the elderly who too often are all alone.
The lost and lonely try everything to relieve their loneliness: friend searches, parties, bars, excessive work, shopping. Nothing helps.
The real source of loneliness isn’t being alone. One can be overwhelmed with loneliness in a crowd. Even the famous-adored by millions of people can be miserable and lonely.
Loneliness is being out of one’s element, like a fish out of water. The fish’s problem isn’t being separated from other fish, it’s being separated from its element. Mankind’s element is Christ-God. The Apostle Paul writes to the church at Rome, “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” To the Corinthians, Paul writes all are “baptized by one Spirit into one body.” That body is the church — Christ’s body.
In Christ, one finds forgiveness, acceptance, love. In Christ, one belongs and is never alone. He will never desert you. He will be with you always, even as you “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
The Beatles sang “where do they all belong?” For that question, there’s an answer and the answer is Jesus! And that goes for you too, Eleanor!
Ken Haskins is pastor of First Christian Church