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Welcoming Solitude as Our Teacher

Welcoming Solitude as Our Teacher
 

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved,
in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Isaiah 30:15

Entering the Fortress of Solitude

One of my favorite places on earth is a tiny little shack nestled in a small forest hollow in Southern New York. Amongst a carpet of ferns and beside a quiet brook, this little cabin is a spiritual haven for me. Some of my friends have jokingly dubbed it, “The Fortress of Solitude.”

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It’s been far too long since I’ve spent any meaningful time there, but when I do, I find myself much more easily at peace – peace with God, peace with myself and my occasional boredom, peace with the relationships and ministry and to-do lists that I left behind. In that place of withdraw, I can slow down. I can mentally de-clutter, and in that internal place of silence, I find myself more inclined to listen for God’s still small voice.

This isn’t a new idea, but it’s one which I’m continually reminded of: It doesn’t take much more than the intentional quieting down of our souls for us to become aware of God speaking in our lives. It doesn’t require much more than an attentive spirit to be able to experience God’s presence in our lives.

Holy Discomfort with the Normalcy of Busyness

When I’m on a retreat of silence and solitude, that truth is simple, good, and refreshing at the deepest levels of my heart. However, when I’m not on retreat, but rather am on point, caught up in the ceaseless busyness of life, the frenetic pace of expectations… when I’m in not such a serene place then that truth seems frustrating, complicated, and painfully out of reach.

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I mentioned that it’s been a while since I’ve visited that cabin in the woods. In reality, it’s been well over a year, and what a year at that – filled with transitions and new responsibilities at work, new challenges at home as my wife and I enter into parenthood, and that ever-increasing litany of things that define our busy “new normal.”

I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with that kind of busyness. I don’t like it, or rather, I don’t like what that kind of busyness can do to me. It robs us. It robs us of joy. It takes from us simple pleasures and spontaneous moments. It steals the blessing of being present with others. And perhaps, worst of all, it robs us from those “simple, good, and refreshing” moments with God experienced only in slowing, silence, and solitude.

Five Signs You’re Really in Need of Some Meaningful Solitude

  1. When given a moment to be still, you find it almost impossible to slow yourself down.
  2. You find yourself both increasingly aware of your need for rest and renewal and feeling incapable of addressing it right now.
  3. The thought of making a decision, even a simple one, seems draining or exhausting.
  4. People around you increasingly seem like an obstacle to avoid or a means to use, rather than a person with whom you are being invited to be fully present.
  5. As you read that last sentence, you found yourself skimming for the gist instead of thinking about the words and their reflection on you.

Ok, I probably wrote that list just for myself, but if you found yourself resonating with any bit of it, then let me encourage you to take a serious look at how your soul is really doing. This isn’t the time to shrug it off and pour yourself another cup of over-priced coffee. It may be a necessary moment of spiritual intervention.

  • What noises, distractions, demands are in your life right now, which may be drowning out the still small voice of God?
  • Where’s that intentional space that you could draw away to for a brief moment today in order to consciously attend to God’s presence in your life today? Where can you make room for a divine interruption?

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Resources to Help You find Meaningful Solitude

Here at Project Renovation, we’re blessed to partner with a number of ministries who are committed to caring for the spiritual health of youth workers. If you find yourself in a place, where getting away – even for just a few hours – would be a great benefit, we’ve got friends who want to help.

“Be still before the LORD God!”

Zephaniah 1:7

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

 

Aaron Brown
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Aaron Brown is an Assistant Professor of Student Ministry at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. He attended Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. Before coming to LBC, he was the Sr. High Director at Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, PA. Aaron serves as the Project's editor and web guy.