Summary: solitude because solitude strips us of our dependence on the world. When that dependence is stripped, we collapse and that collapse brings us in tune with God;
The phrase is one of the sweetest sounding expressions ever to leave our lips – “I’m getting away.” Any life-battered and weary person can experience the release in just saying the words: “Getting away”.
• Doesn’t really capture the essence of solitude. “Getting away” isn’t something we usually do alone – someone is pulled into the journey.
Dallas Williard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: “Solitude is the most radical of the disciplines for life in the spirit.” Solitude represents being alone. Most of us gravitate to crowds because we don’t like being alone or fear being alone.
Text language doesn’t draw us into any desire for the experience – Mark 1:35, “Solitary place” (KJV) – “Secluded place” (NAS) – “Alone into the wilderness” (NLT) – “a place where he could be alone” (CEV) – “Went to a deserted place” (NRS)
Solitude is often perceived as solitary confinement – Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist before presidency in 1994-1999. In 1962 arrested and convicted of sabotage for which he was sentenced to life in prison. He served 27 years in a small cell and forced labour.
Focus: Solitude when understood will be a welcomed and necessary, repeated experience; must change the perception of solitary confinement and isolation. Realize it is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
Examples of its necessity – Jesus and disciples:
• Choosing His leadership team (Luke 6
• After John’s death when his purpose would be compromised prematurely and the social impact to his followers would be severe – more on this shortly (Matt 14
• When the twelve returned from preaching and healing (Mark 6
• Eve of crucifixion in preparation (Matt 26
We should grab hold of solitude because
1. SOLITUDE PREPARES US FOR LIFE’S EXPERIENCES
Mark 1:9-12 (emphasis: 12)
Matt 4:1 – details of temptation. “Led by the Spirit into the desert” (NIV). Stronger language: “Led” meaning “taken, driven…..”
The desert was not a dreadful place because of what was to come (temptations). It was a haven that prepared Jesus for what was to come. Would come … issue is being ready…
Solitary experiences are preparation times for dealing with life and getting tuned in to God’s heartbeat for the world – for YOUR PART in the plan for the world.
Commentator Matthew Henry: “God usually prepares his people for temptation before he calls them to it; he gives strength according to the day, and, before a sharp trial, gives more than ordinary comfort.”
E.g. Getting our children to bed when they were younger – “Daddy, can I have another few minutes?” “Ten minutes.” Ten minutes later, “It’s bedtime.” “Daddy, can I have another ten minutes?” “Okay but then you have to go to bed.” Ten minutes go by, “Time for bed.” “Daddy, just a few more minutes!” At this point we DRIVE them to bed.
Why? What a cruel parent you are, driving your children to bed? Not all at. LOVE DRIVES them…
• God will pull us away, lead us, or drive us to solitude.
• Maybe because we lack the discipline or are consumed with distractions to get there on our own
• Love drives…
We should grab hold of solitude because
2. SOLITUDE NURTURES RELATIONSHIP (WITH GOD)
Albert Barnes in The New Testament notes that Jesus “sought a solitary place – far away from the world.” For what purpose? Prayer. What is prayer? Isn’t it spending time with God?
E.g. when family visits on occasion we’ve had family from both sides – Glenys’ sister and husband with my parents. It is still meaningful but not quite the same as having one side visit at a time because our focus is divided even though we all spend time together. It is more meaningful when we have the one and can focus on the one.
Jesus insisted on getting alone so he could spend time with God without everyone else around. Still aware of Father but…
Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says we need to be alone at times, not so we can be away from people but in order to get closer to God and hear what Foster calls “the Divine Whisper”. Can’t hear God’s whisper when everyone is talking, pushing and shoving their needs, expectations and demands on your time and energy
E.g. – Driving children to bed analogy. What usually happens? Mom or dad often puts them into bed but then takes a few moments to stay in the room and does what? Sings a lullaby; strokes her face or rubs her back as he sings a song. And what does the child do? Settle into a deep sleep. Why? There is nothing more comforting than daddy’s presence.
I’m not sure Williard meant to lead me to this conclusion but it is an interesting possibility worth exploring. It is this. We tend to become dependent on the world just because things are set up that way. The more we depend on the world the more we become alienated from God. The remedy then is a place of solitude because solitude strips us of our dependence on the world. When that dependence is stripped, we collapse and that collapse brings us in tune with God; we turn to the only help there is left when the world is stripped away – God!