What do you think of when you see the word SOLITUDE? Does it conjure up feelings of loneliness or does it make you feel peaceful? As a teenager and in my 20’s I would have been nervous when thinking about being alone for any amount of time. I believed that I needed to be around people every waking minute. The more, the merrier. I derived my significance from other people.
As I grew older, I was absorbed in our family's hectic schedule and rarely had time alone. If I did have a moment of solitude, I thought of it as small chunks of time in which I could catch up on some reading or work or take a nap. Then I would quickly get back to my schedule and hit the ground running. My friend Kat used to encourage me to be intentional about scheduling solitude times with God. When I did make those times a priority, I was refreshed and was able to listen to God clearly. Unfortunately, I didn't do it as often as I should.
Six months ago, I was thrust into a forced period of solitude. It was unexpected and abrupt. I’ve been a mama for 37 years and had kids in the house for those 37 years. Our youngest one moved out this past spring, so earlier than I expected I had an empty nest. Since my husband, Larry works out of town most of the time, that left me with a lot of alone time.
At first, the loneliness consumed me. I still had to work and function, but it felt like I was pushing through a thick cloud of grief. In the quiet, I was forced to hear thoughts I had buried in the busyness of life. Some of the ideas were productive and brought forth clarity. Others, however, were not so productive and ushered in doubt and pain.
My mind was like a lake that was stirred up for far too long and suddenly became still. I believe in some ways I could see my reflection with accuracy for the first time. In my solitude, I could hear clearly from God. He gently and lovingly walked me through the initial pain of my loneliness. As the pain subsided, I could feel God teaching me things about myself. Not in a condemning way, but in a beautiful, growing way.
I am still learning and experience bouts of loneliness. However, I have grown to cherish the solitude God has placed in my life. I can enjoy the blessings that time alone brings. I was able to finish writing my book and start the process with a wonderful publisher. It also gave me time to reflect on the activities in my life and re-prioritize them.
If you are in a forced place of solitude, I encourage you to embrace it and infuse your space with God’s presence. Sometimes that might include uplifting music or scripture reading, but be sure to allow times of silence. Conversely, if you have a crazy, busy schedule and you can’t imagine having a moment of alone time – schedule some. Solitude brings clarity and transformation into our lives
Solitude is the place of purification and transformation, the place of the great struggle and the great encounter. - Henry Nouwen