Captured by Solitude
We’ve all felt the change. A community that prides itself on socializing and dining in style is now on lockdown. No more gathering around the fireplace before dinner. No more running into each other between exercise classes. No more billiard games, knitting groups, or book clubs. Instead…quarantined to apartments. Feeling isolated. Feeling captured by solitude.
Solitude is not for the faint of heart. Even the introverted find it difficult to endure it for long.
The poet and novelist, May Sarton once wrote:
My need to be alone is balanced against my fear of what will happen when suddenly I enter the huge empty silence if I cannot find support there. I go up to Heaven and down to Hell in an hour, and keep alive only by imposing upon myself inexorable routines.
The waves of emotion that crash in on you at any given moment are constant companions in solitude. One moment you feel confident—joyful even—and in the next moment, you begin sobbing, unsure why you are even crying.
Solitude is a challenging mountain to climb. This is why many religions call solitude a “discipline.” Disciplines are meant to be eased into…an hour today, two hours tomorrow, etc. They need to be practiced over a long period of time before they become a true habit. Yet, none of you had time to practice. You were thrust into the habit of solitude with hardly a warning. So, if it’s been harder than you expected, that’s okay. I know you wish you were a pro at this, but the truth is, when it comes to practicing solitude, most of us are amateurs.
My daughter’s birthday is next week, and we gave her an early present—a new bicycle. As a 4-year-old, she’s learning to ride with training wheels. The training wheels are a great support, but my wife and I don’t expect her to be ready for the Tour de France by next week. She’s got a long road ahead of her, filled with bruised shins and scraped knees, before she’ll be able to even enjoy a 10-mile ride.
So, when the waves of emotion crash in, when you’re frustrated at how difficult it is living in solitude, remember you’re just a beginner. You’re riding with training wheels. No one expects a beginner to get it right the first time. We are patient with them. We give them grace as they get the hang of it.
Reflecting on Jesus’ seasons of solitude, Pastor Adele Calhoun comments:
Solitude is a formative place because it gives God’s Spirit time and space to do deep work. When no one is there to watch, judge and interpret what we say, the Spirit often brings us face to face with hidden motives and compulsions. Solitude with God was a way Jesus remained in touch with his true identity.
So, may we do for ourselves what we would do for any other beginner. Be patient with yourself. Be gracious with yourself. And maybe, just maybe, the silence of solitude might become the voice of God.
Grace and Peace,