I am an introvert. I gotta say, I like the idea of spending time on my own. Seeing a free evening in the diary often brings a feeling of freedom. For my extroverted friends, an empty day in the diary often brings a feeling of emptiness. The idea of ‘solitude’ may seem wonderful or terrifying depending on how easy you find it to be alone.
Although we may respond in different ways to time alone, solitude is a discipline in which each of us can find fulfilment and freedom. This is because solitude is actually about us seeking relationship and intimacy with Jesus. As Richard Foster, my favourite writer on the Holy Habits once said, ‘…if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone.’
This inward solitude is a state of the mind and heart, so we can practice this discipline anywhere.
There are also outward ways in which we can live out solitude. Jesus regularly withdrew from the presence of others to spend precious time alone with the Father. We see many examples of this in the Bible, such as the forty days Jesus spent in the desert at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:1-11) and his time in the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus often drew large crowds, yet in many key moments during his life and ministry he chose to be alone.
Jesus was practicing ‘social distancing’ two thousand years ago!
As we go into this summer, whether you’re going to uni, going back to uni or you’ve just graduated, perhaps the restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic may be an ideal opportunity for us to grow in this discipline of solitude, as we’re already having to isolate ourselves from most others. You may have few spaces to retreat to because of the lockdown, but consider finding an area in your home where you can spend time alone with God, even if just for a few minutes.
Solitude is just one of the spiritual disciplines – activities just like Jesus’ that get our spirit in a place of readiness so we too can encounter God. In our busy lives – our studies, full of encounters with others – all our thoughts, energies and actions are usually reactions to a fallen world.
But in solitude, we purposefully refrain from these interactions in order to focus our minds on the Lord.
So here's the rub...in solitude we get quiet – we silence our energies, emotions, angers, worries, concerns and activities in order to be present with the Father.