One of a series in Lent -
Nurturing Solitude- March 16th
Nurturing Stillness- March 23rd
Nurturing Silence – March 30th
Nurturing Simplicity – April 6th
Find a quiet space!
Easier said than done!
Which of us finds it easy to find solitude?
Wikipedia defines it as
“a state or situation in which you are alone usually because you want to be.” The Oxford dictionary describes it as “that state or quality of being alone or remote from others and sometimes related to being in a lonely or secluded place.”
Besides thinking that this is something we would like to do; how important is solitude to the human spirit? How easy is solitude to find?
I asked Ian Kilgour, a leader in our Ministry team, to share his insights on our theme for this Lent which is Space for God. Ian has prepared notes for our weekly worship and home groups around the themes of Nurturing Solitude, Stillness, Silence and Simplicity. This following paragraph is from his notes.
“Jesus had a need for solitude. How many times does Jesus withdraw to a solitary place?
This is the heart of prayer and meditation that we also have to withdraw each day from the excessive noise and frenzied activity and find God in the solitary place of our own hearts. “ Ian K.
Mark 6: 30-33 This is just before the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand. We read “..There are so many people coming and going, that there was no time to eat. Jesus said - let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.”
Solitude for Jesus is being with the people who are closest to him; people with whom he could be himself. Solitude is about being alone with them and resting, and restoring.
Following the Feeding of the 5000 account, we read in Mark 6: 45.46: “Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and start back across the lake. But Jesus stayed and went up to a mountain where he could be alone and pray. Later that evening he was still there.”
Solitude for Jesus is being alone, without his close friends. Solitude is a high place above the plains of need below. Solitude is being able to pray. Jesus wasn’t in a hurry. Hours later he was still on the mountain. Solitude is staying lingering, not hurrying.
Luke 4: 42-44 “The next morning Jesus went out to a deserted place where he could be alone, and crowds came looking for him when they found him, they tried to stop him from leaving.”
Luke 5: 15-16 “News about Jesus kept spreading. Large crowds came to listen to him teach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.”
For Jesus, finding solitude is again being alone and away from where he was called to be and away from whom he was called to be with. Jesus struggles against the will of the crowd to find solitude. Praying is his sustenance.
Luke 6:12&13 About that time, Jesus went off to a mountain to pray and he spent the whole night there. The next morning he called his disciples together and …chose the twelve.”
Jesus’ sought solitude to pray and through prayer, he finds the wisdom to choose his 12 disciples.
Solitude is not earnestly working to achieve answers or direction but resting in being alone and knowing the experience itself is the gift.
Jesus is our example and our leader.
What we know about Jesus and the solitude he needed and sought is a sign and an invitation for us to follow.
Solitude for Jesus was a way to be truly with God, and to be in tune with his purposes; to feed on God’s reassurance, to gain rest; to be restored.
Seek solitude. It is not a weakness, but a pathway to accessing the presence of God in your heart.
In solitude there is the invitation
of God to…
· Find room to be alone with the people who matter most to you -sometimes you can only be with them in spirit. They have gone from you or they are far, far away.
· Be alone because you choose to be, and you not afraid to say to others you need
to be alone.
· Pray deeply without anyone to hear except for the space you are in to listen.
· Move beyond the needs and demands of life and dwell in the rest this time gives.
· Prepare your spirit; breathing in the wisdom of God for the big decisions and the new directions awaiting your focus.
· Be at peace in your aloneness no matter what is happening for you beyond this time.
· Linger in God’s presence. stay a while but not be afraid to return to the demands of life knowing you are resourced to live fully.
· Restore you to be with the people you are called to be with today and to be in the place you are meant to be today.
When solitude is the end goal.
There is a down side. Solitude is not an end in itself. Solitude is not cutting yourself off from the world; from people and from caring. The words from a song written by Simon and Garfunkel sum up a mistaken understanding of Solitude:-
“ I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; and an island never cries.”
Solitude can be a way of hiding when life is too painful or when relationships are simply too hurtful or hard. It can be an excuse to live in a secret life – gaming, drinking, living on the net, sleeping. We know inside ourselves when we have chosen to be an island. Pastimes no longer provide relaxation to gain strength for living, but are escapism to hide from living.
To move away from life is a journey to death. There is no means to serve and no one to love and no one for you to love. It is the opposite of what dwelling in God’s presence can do for you.
If this is you, seek God’s presence.. Turn off the chatter. Seek help. Know you are loved and you are not alone. Seek the solitude to pray and find purpose in the rest God gives you.
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
God has always been a God of invitation – inviting us to get closer to the Word,(the meaning), the presence of light and hope, the inner strength and perfect love that is the great I AM. It is within and without, around us and beyond us – ready to save and to restore.
Come to me all who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
THREE BENEFITS OF SOLITUDE for the Christian who seeks it:
· Gain greater STRENGTH from God
· Gain a greater TRUST in God.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
· Develop a deeper RELATIONSHIP with God.
Solitude in Chaos
Where is solitude in the Syrian world with war, hatred and fear in the corners of so many cities and crowded tents and food lines for thousands of refugees? Or in a Philippino world following the hurricane; or the Japanese world following the tidal wave; the Christchurch world following the earthquakes, liquefaction and floods.
What is the source of hope and nourishment that will enable people in these circumstances to face the bombs, the terrible tragedy of losing family and home, the shattering of the earth, the floods? How will they find solitude that they might hear and feel the still small voice of hope?
Where is solitude for the rejected young girl for whom loyal friends are a far away hope? She knows only rejection and bullying from her peers. Her solitude is an aloneness that she fears - in the playground, at the school camp. It is every day.
Where is solitude for the older person alone in their home? Children are far away or too busy. The body is fragile and confidence is waning. Memories and thinking about dying are frequent visitors.
There is no choice in their being so alone. They need the solitude that Jesus found
when he sought to be alone with his friends to rest and pray.
Can we dare to trust in the promise that God’s peace and presence are in the midst of the worst chaos as well as the most tranquil setting? The cross of Christ – a perfect life crushed by suffering - is at the centre of our finding Space for God.
Do we dare to own the understanding that we as humans realise our own fulfilment in enabling others to find it?
The face of God is in the care and attention we give to the plight of others.
Jesus died that we might have his spirit as comforter and friend – that we would never be alone. This promise is for all people.
“Solitude is potentially preparing ourselves for a deeper intimacy with another.” Henri Nouwen.