Lent Series: Solitude

The Lenten Season gives us opportunity to reflect on who Christ is and examine our hearts as we prepare for Easter. During Lent, many practice fasting, self-denial, or increased acts of service. It is a time to repent of our sin and receive forgiveness. The ultimate goal is heart transformation – as we enter into Christ’s suffering, we become more like him. This year, we offer this Lenten blog series as a way to help you become closer to Jesus. Each post will reflect on a different spiritual discipline – some inward, others outward; some individual, others corporate. May these spiritual practices facilitate God’s formation of your soul. Today’s post was written by Beth Melillo, one of our Deacons.

 

I don’t think I’m alone in having a desk that looks like this.

The web browser I’m using has 8 tabs open, and I have a few emails I’m in the middle of composing.  The flashing indicator on my phone lets me know I’ve missed 2 calls while I was in a meeting.  On my cellphone, there is an unanswered text and a podcast on pause. My blog aggregator reveals I’ve got over 1000 new posts I could read, and Twitter chirps with 40 new tweets in the last 20 minutes.

And these are the stories, ideas, and images I’m interested in — never mind the thousands of news sources and youtube channels I don’t really care about following.

This is a lot of noise and I feel like I can’t keep up, even if I spend all my time composing emails, reading, and watching this stream of information. What if I miss something important?

Paradoxically, it’s the intertwined spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence that give me the ability to respond to this frenetic buzz.

What is solitude? Richard Foster says in Celebration of Discipline, “Solitude is inner fulfillment, … more a state of mind and heart than it is a place.” Jesus frequently practiced solitude, rising early, and heading to lonely places (Mark 1:35).

In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard says, “Solitude frees us, actually.  This above all explains its primacy and priority among the disciplines.  The normal course of day-to-day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world set against God.”

So then, solitude is a discipline of abstinence, requiring that we give up our connection to the hubbub of modern life, our feelings that we are the center of the universe.  We face our fear of being alone. We confront the fear that we may be missing out by stepping away.  We recognize that we have finite time.  Instead of attempting to tackle it all, we relinquish the sense that we can, or even should, respond to these cries.

Where in our busy lives, where it feels like we are always connected, can we be alone to experience solitude?  How do we introduce the discipline of solitude into our lives and escape?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • This week commute in silence in your car or on the train.
  • Create a space in your home, apartment, or room – even as small as a chair – where you can sit in silence.
  • Consider joining in the National Day of Unplugging March 3-4 and staying away from devices.
  • Take a walk around the block, or at one of the many beautiful Greenbelt properties in Essex County without your phone.
  • Take your lunch break away from your coworkers or desk and walk around or sit in your car, or empty office.
  • Lie in bed at the beginning and end of the day without books or screens and reflect on God’s work in your life.
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