Some spiritual exercises require activity – such as worship, prayer, evangelism. Other exercises require inactivity – such as fasting and solitude. These exercises of inactivity are not necessarily easy to do even though they involve less direct action. Inaction can be tougher than action.
This blog entry is about an easy (difficult) exercise called solitude. Solitude is giving God time and space with no competition. It means removing yourself from the constant interruptions of life and just ‘being’ with God. What makes this exercise easy is that there really is nothing to do. It’s not about talking with God or studying the Bible or even reading the Bible – it’s about being in the arms of your beloved. It’s about stopping, embracing God with a man-hug, and just being.
The purpose of this exercise is to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’. It means being completely present to God with no distractions. You may pray but you don’t have to. You may read your Bible but you don’t have to. It’s a non-agenda time. Perhaps, if you are a person with a prayer list or Bible reading plan, you may need to put them aside. I would strongly encourage you to actually put these aside for a while just to ensure you break the ‘doing’. We need to be careful that this time is ‘with’ God. Often our (good) spiritual exercises, such as prayer and reading of our Bible, can get in the way of simply ‘being’. In the Biblical account (Luke 10:38-42) of Martha and Mary it is Mary who is commended for just ‘being’. Martha, while serving the Lord and doing good was too busy to be ‘with’ the Lord . Ministry, prayer, Bible Study – all of these things are good but a time of solitude puts all of these things aside to just ‘be’.
What makes this exercise so difficult is that it challenges our activity. It challenges our desire to be seen, wanted and needed. It challenges our addiction to others, their approval of what we do and who we are. Solitude with God, looking at him and him alone, challenges our conformity to our culture. Solitude strips away our masks. Solitude brings us face to face with God, in silence, and takes the focus off those around us reducing the need to define our lives by those we see everyday.
In prison, solitary confinement is used to break the strongest of wills. We are made to be with others and the fallen human personality depends upon it. Life with God is strengthened by being alone with him. We find ourselves without our social mirrors and we come to see our inner self. Solitude, as it takes hold of our inner being, causes us to ask, “Who am I when all is stripped away? Who am I when I am not being productive? What am I when I am not connected?”
Solitude helps us to see the things, and the people, and our priorities for what they are. We begin to see God more clearly and more importantly we begin to see what he is reflecting back in what he sees in us. God becomes the mirror to our soul. We stop seeing others opinions and start seeing God’s perspective. We see that we loved by God not because of our achievements but because we are his.
In the midst of these challenges you will likely feel agitated, scattered, distracted. The faster your lifestyle the more likely you are to feel this way. We dislike being unproductive, unapplauded. To stop and just be will take time. If you are sleep deprived (like most people) you are likely to fall asleep. That’s not a bad thing. You would have fallen asleep in the arms of your beloved – enjoy it.
If you haven’t ever tried solitude it’s really very easy. Be still and be with God. No agenda. No activity. Just allow yourself to be embraced by his love. Do it now. Take 1 minute and be still.
I was once challenged to enter a time of solitude for 3 hours. 3 hours! How hard could it be? No agenda, no activity, no problem. I fell asleep. The second I tried I fell asleep. It took me 4 attempts. In the fourth attempt of just sitting still I had one of my best conversations with God. I didn’t set out to. I had no agenda after all. After an hour of sitting silently I sensed an invitation from God to talk, to pray about what was bothering me. Sitting silently, just being for that hour, stripped from me all the superficial concerns I had been having. I encountered God at a much deeper level than I had experienced before.
I wish I could say every prolonged time of solitude had the same response but it hasn’t. Sometimes God has remained silent and withdrawn. A time of solitude may not be a wonderful time of ecstasy. There are dark nights that God will put us through and times of solitude may make those times seem darker. It may not feel like it but these a tremendous blessings which I will talk about at another time. Our culture runs from the dark night but God uses it to bring life.
In order to have a 3 hour time of solitude you you may need to be ruthless with family and friends – 3 hours is a long time to be absent. But it’s worth it and I encourage you to try it. This isn’t to say that 1 minute is not worth it. It is. If you aren’t in a position to be still for 3 hours then be still for 1 hour. If you can’t for 1 hour then try for 10 minutes. Even 1 minute will help you to connect with God. It’s a spiritual exercise that has many benefits at many different levels. Think of it like running. If all you have time for is to run 100m then do it – you body will love the exercise. If you can get out and run a marathon then do that. It will be a different experience but both are worth it.
Let me know how you get along. Am I right – is it really difficult or did you find it easy? What was your experience? Is this an exercise you would encourage others to do? Will you try it again? Leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe.