If you’re like me – a result-oriented person and lover of ticking off that task that’s been scheduled in my bullet journal – then you’re likely to understand this tension. It’s the tension of there is lots to do today AND I need to spend time alone seeking and hearing God.
Henri Nouwen said this:
Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.
If you were to google the question What does it mean to live a spiritual life? you’d get a variety of opinions. For me, I think living a spiritual life is a couple of things. First, it’s the yes response to Jesus’ invitation to come and follow Him. Second, it’s a way of life (habits and practices and beliefs and choices) that we learn about through our interaction with the Scriptures (Bible) and by being in a Christian community. Third, it’s attentiveness to our living relationship with Jesus Christ. And fourth, it’s attentiveness to our soul and its needs.
Jesus modelled the need to create space for time alone with the Father.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, NIV)
I find it fascinating that Jesus got up before the crack of dawn, the typical time the entire household would awake, and he left the house, going off to a solitary place. Isn’t it interesting that he had to leave the house and go off to a solitary place? Was that because the house was full of people and distractions? We don’t really know why he chose to the leave the house. I feel fortunate to have spaces within my home where in the colder months I can retreat to. But in the summer, I love to sit on the deck in my backyard. I especially like to be up watching the sunrise in the summer months.
But wherever that “go to” place is, it’s important for us to find it and to be intentional to prioritize time alone with our loving Heavenly Father – the one who “speaks peace to his faithful people” (Ps 85:8). The one from whom our joy and strength and refreshing springs come (Ps 84:5).
Curiously, the text in Mark does not tell us what Jesus’ prayers comprised of that day or what the Father may have communicated to him or how the fellowship in that time was within the Triune God. Oh, how sweet and hard those times must have been. We can only imagine!
Now if Nouwen is right, and I think he is, if we do not have a practice of Solitude in our life, it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. And if you find yourself longing for more and have been unable to put your finger on what’s missing, perhaps this is it.
So I would invite you to spend some time reflecting on and answering the following questions:
- Am I living the spiritual life I long to be living? Why or why not?
- Is God calling me deeper and inviting me to come away and be with Him? What does that look like?
- Do I have a place to go or do I need to create a space to go to?
- Do I need to get up earlier in order to have solitude or might I need to make some other adjustments in my schedule because the hustle of life isn’t slowing down any time soon? What adjusments might I need to make?
- In keeping with the principle of just start and start small when making changes, what can I start doing, based on what the Spirit has revealed during my reflection time, that will put me on the path of living the spiritual life I long to be living?
When making adjustments in our life, it can be challenging. Hence the reason to just start and start small. I would suggest that you set up a goal for yourself for the next six weeks (that should be doable by us all!). Pick your start and end date. And as part of this small change you’ll be making, make it a practice to weekly review your commitment to the goal and make adjustments as needed to keep you on track. If you’re a tracker like me, make it a daily practice to tick the box!
And if you want to learn more about Solitude, there are a number of authors that write on it. Authors such as Henri Nouwen, Ruth Haley Barton, and Richard Foster, to name a few.
Wishing you a day in which Solitude is a sweet part,