When I first saw the listing of topics, I knew this topic was one I wanted to post about. I not only want, I need a certain amount of solitude to stay sane. 🙂
Some years ago I read a quote from a forgotten source along the lines of being your own best company. That struck a chord with me. In everyone’s life there are lonely times, and if we’re just not happy unless we’re with other people, those times will be especially hard. I feel most comfortable with a few close friends rather than a room full of people anyway. But even as a teen-ager I enjoyed time alone in my room to think, write, read, etc. It was a refuge. When I got married I was so thrilled to be with my husband more, and our first few months together we were both in school and working together, so we did have a lot more time together. Then I graduated, but he was still in school, and our work situation changed, and I saw him a lot less. Then when he got his first professional job, it entailed some degree of traveling out of town. I ended up spending a lot more time alone. I was dismayed and disappointed. I thought, “This is not the way it is supposed to be!! I got married so that we could be together!” But it seemed the more I prayed (or rather, wailed, complained, etc….) to the Lord, the more my husband had to work out of town. One can’t live with that level of discontent for long. I finally had to just give it over to the Lord and ask His help for those times alone.
One of Elisabeth Elliot’s books that I have not yet read is The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God. But I have read enough of her writings where she touched on the subject to know that she would say to offer it back to the Lord: give that loneliness to Him and ask Him to consecrate it, and see how He wants to minister to you through it and what He wants you to do with it.
Yet, to me, the word “solitude” has a more restful connotation than the word “alone.” One needs to be alone to have solitude, but one can be alone without solitude. The dictionary definition doesn’t really make that distinction, though, so maybe it is just in my own mind.
What beauty can one find in solitude? For me, it is in solitude, when I can put away other distractions and duties, that I really “get down to business” with the Lord. Whether I need to think through an issue, deal with a sin, pray over a need, or just fellowship with Him, all of those things are best done in solitude with Him. He called Moses and others out to meet with Him alone; the high priest entered into the holy place alone. As I wrote before, sometimes solitude with small children in the house is rare, but He does give grace in time of need.
It is also in solitude that I regain perspective, get my thoughts in order, get at peace with myself and others. Even with a houseful of people whom I love and enjoy, I need those moments of solitude. My thoughts can be like the swirlings in a snow globe, and stillness and solitude help restore order and peace.
In a practical sense, as well, I’ve learned to make use of those times of solitude when my husband has had to be away. It is in those times that I can spend time on the phone with a friend, work on projects, write, read to my heart’s content. It’s not that I can’t do those things when he is here. He has always encouraged my friendships with other women, for example, but I have not wanted to spend time when he is home on the phone with other people.
When my children were small, solitude was at a premium, and maybe that’s when I learned to treasure it so highly. 🙂 I am not looking forward to the excess of solitude that will come as they leave home, yet God has ordained that children grow up and leave father and mother and establish their own homes, so I trust that His grace will be sufficient for that time. I have projects I want to do that will keep me busy til I’m a hundred, so I won’t have a problem with finding something to do with myself. 🙂 But I know I will miss them and I hope to channel that into praying for them.
So much in a Christian’s life comes back to that word balance. There are times we need solitude, yet God also placed people into our lives for us to minister to. I have been guilty of sometimes pushing people away for solitude’s sake when I should be ministering to, listening to, paying attention to them. As always our best example is the Lord Jesus Himself: He ministered to people all through the day, took interruptions graciously in stride, yet sought out times to be alone with His disciples and alone with His Father.