What I Learned From a Morning of Solitude
Solitude is not a word that is usually found in my vocabulary, if at all. It’s especially not found normally in my vocabulary pertaining to God or anything spiritual. For me, solitude is usually something nice to talk about, but rarely a reality. After all, we all live in a pretty fast-paced, hectic world. To set aside any time at all is difficult enough, let alone time that could be spent doing stuff to simply sit alone and spend some time with God.
My friend/boss/mentor Bobby Jackson approached me several weeks ago about setting aside some time each month for solitude. A ministry friend/mentor of his had suggested a time of solitude each month as a regular practice in his spiritual life, and so Bobby asked me to pick a day where I would basically take a morning or afternoon off, get to somewhere by myself, and spend some extended time alone with God. I agreed, but have to admit that I did so somewhat hesitantly.
I love God. I absolutely do. But there are also a lot of other people in my life that I love as well, and yet for some reason, spending an extended time alone with them can feel sort of weird sometimes. I don’t know if anyone else is this way, but in a group of 3 or more, I thrive. You can sort of “play off of” the other two people. If conversation isn’t resonating with one person, it usually does with the other two and it just feels more comfortable to me. Generally when I sit down to meet with just one person one-on-one, I feel this sort of weird tension like I have to always be talking to fill the silence and I have to be “on” and make someone laugh or listen. There are probably only about 4 or 5 relationships in my life where I feel like I don’t feel that pressure (probably an indicator of some sort of deeper relational problem in my life).
And as much as I hate to say it, I don’t know that I feel comfortable spending one-on-one time with God.
That’s a terrible thing to say. I’m a pastor. I’m on the ministry staff of a growing, vibrant church of over 1,000 people. But that’s honestly how I feel sometimes. I’ll sit down and I don’t know what to say to God. I feel that as a small, finite human being, I struggle to connect relationally with the Almighty God of the universe. I feel that inner panic much like I do when sitting down for a one-on-one conversation with a person. Sometimes 15 or 30 minutes can be a huge challenge for me. I shudder to think about several hours!
But nevertheless, this morning, I found myself backstage in the worship area, sitting on the couch, preparing to encounter God over the next few hours. And what do you know… it was great. I’m learning that if I truly believe God speaks, if I truly believe that God has something to say to even me, if I truly believe that God wants me to connect with Him, that I don’t need to worry about an awkward time with God. He’ll get His message across.
I could go in-depth on here about some of the reflections I walked away with today, but I think the most valuable thing I could do on here is simply share that solitude is a great thing, and that you should make time for it in your schedule whenever possible. Seriously. Whether it be monthly, quarterly, every few weeks, whatever, do it. It’s a very worthwhile practice.
If you’re not sure what to do for a time of solitude, I’d suggest checking out a great book (seriously, a top 5 Christian classic) called Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Here he outlines some great spiritual disciplines which are definitely worth your study, and one of those chapters is on the practice of solitude. I know that for me, just getting a chance to pray for a considerable period of time, really talking out some issues in my life with God, as well as taking some time to read the Bible and be reminded of some great truths was very refreshing for me. And I think my spiritual life is definitely better because of it.
So there you go, folks. Take some time out of your schedule to practice the spiritual discipline of solitude. I promise that you won’t be sorry.
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