Solitude sounds scary in these days of constant stimulation. You don’t know what to do with yourself in silence. The TV is always on, even if you’re not watching it. You feel the need to constantly keep a noisy atmosphere. The few seconds of quiet you experience are terrifying.
Or maybe solitude sounds great, but an impossible pipe dream with everything demanded and expected of you. Moments of quiet don’t exist with kids, work, and other activities. “My moments of solitude are when I’m in the bathroom, and even them I’m trying to knock out emails.”
“Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting. For he cannot go on happily for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul. If man is constantly exiled from his own home, locked out of his own spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person. He no longer lives as a man.”
- Thomas Merton
So how do we do it? Remember spiritual disciplines are not merely states of mind or lists of things to check off, but actions where solitude becomes a part of the pattern of life in pursuit of a deeper relationship with God.
Richard Foster says the first step is to take advantage of the “little solitudes” we find during the day. The quiet moments when you first wake up (hint: don’t grab your phone). A morning cup of coffee or tea. You can find solitude while you’re stuck in traffic. A moment of silence when you see the beauty of the sunset, flowers blooming, or the leaves changing.
As you find a regular rhythm of solitude, you can develop a quiet place designed for silence and solitude. A closet? The porch? Maybe the garage? It can even be a chair where, when you are in it, everyone knows to give you some space.
Where can you go to find some peace to be alone with Jesus? To hear words of validation from the Father? To have your soul watered by the Holy Spirit?
Look for ways to implement solitude in your life. I keep a small backpack of portable peace in the back of my car. When the opportunity presents itself, I can set up a hammock for a few minutes of rest. I know other people who keep camp chairs and supplies make instant coffee. Find practical ways to make solitude easy for you.
As solitude becomes a part of your daily practice, peace will follow. Rest will follow. You will hear God as you learn to listen (that’s an entirely different series). But it starts with quiet in your mind, in your heart, and in your soul. Find your fortress of solitude wherever you are.
For further study:
If you’d like to learn more about solitude, there are a lot of great resources. The Art of Manliness website included solitude and silence in their series on spiritual disciplines: Solitude and Silence, and have even offered a couple of podcasts about the benefits of solitude (Leadership and Friendship). Once again, the Solitude chapter in Celebration of Discipline offers so much more depth to the subject (this book was also referenced in the AOM series). In addition to solitude, Pastor Steven Furtick has preached a couple pertinent series (Consider the Source and The Power of Same). Take some time to digest this meaty subject this week.