This fall I have found a new favorite show to enjoy with my husband: the History Channel series, Alone. If you haven’t seen it, the show is all about wilderness survival in harsh and desolate climates. Ten contestants are dropped off in remote locations with limited supplies, and they compete to see who can live off the land longest using their own survival skills. They do all of this, you guessed it, alone.
The fact that I like this show is surprising given the fact that, for me, being alone anywhere for days or weeks at a time sounds like a nightmare. This extrovert enjoys alone time in short chunks only, yet there’s something almost therapeutic about watching people use their skills in the beauty and majesty of nature’s wilderness. Without having to leave the comfort of my living room, I can vicariously experience a little piece of nature. A few moments of solitude. (Nevermind that there are wild animals, starvation, and injuries…the idea of the wilderness is therapeutic anyway!)
The Lord keeps bringing me back to this idea of quiet and solitude. In some ways I find myself craving it. However, practically the minute that I find myself in silence, I immediately begin filling the space with noise or busyness. There’s always a to-do list to accomplish, a podcast to listen to, an email to write, a playlist to create, a message to respond to, or a social media app to check. Quiet and solitude just do not come easily to us humans, especially not in the modern age where there are distractions at every turn.
I’m coming to realize that the practice of solitude is something I’ll have to cultivate.
Jesus lived many years before cell phones or social media, yet he was a popular and wanted man. Everywhere he went, crowds gathered. From the time he woke up to the time he went to sleep, busyness could have enveloped him. Really, if anyone had an excuse to be busy, it was Jesus. After all, He understood that He only had 3 years to accomplish His ministry on earth. Still, in Luke 5, we see that He intentionally took time to slip away to quiet places to pray.
Jesus cultivated solitude. He carved out space and time to commune with His Father alone.
In no way can I relate to crowds following me from town to town like Jesus experienced. I can however, relate to four children needing me from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. I can relate to being present for clients who are in crisis. I can relate to writing and podcasting for the edification of others and sometimes feeling depleted myself. That’s what servant leadership is all about: being poured out and continually refilled. It seems that a key part of the refilling process which keeps us from burning out is the practice of solitude.
In the quiet hours with Jesus, He restores my soul.
In his book, The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen writes: “We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others.”
As a mother, I can attest that there have been seasons when I have had little to no solitude. When you are the mother of littles, naptime may be the only quiet time you get the entire day. The days of caregiving can be long and exhausting, and the few moments of quiet you have may easily turn into a short snooze. Yet, even in those quickly snatched moments of rest, the Lord has restored my soul. Sometimes solitude may look like rest.
In no way am I writing this blog post as an expert on solitude. Far from it. I am at the beginning of learning how to cultivate solitude in my own life. As I embark, I hope you will join me in turning off the noise when it becomes too much. In going outside and taking a breath and enjoying nature. In talking to Jesus in the quiet spaces of your day. I can’t wait to hear the creative ways you incorporate solitude into your life rhythm.
Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. Take a moment and consider Luke 5:16. What stands out to you about Jesus setting aside time to be in the wilderness to pray?
Renew: What is hard for you about solitude? Is it the idea of being still and quiet? Is it the demands of the day? When you are able to sit in stillness, what do you notice about your prayer life?
Next: Consider ways that you might carve out moments of solitude in your daily routine. Get creative! Mrs. Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, famously put her head under her apron to escape her 12 children and pray when she needed a break!
May we learn to quiet our minds and hearts in the quiet places of solitude.
Pause, Renew, Next!