Solitude: A Renewal Ritual

(submitted for October 2012 church newsletter)

Life throws us "curve balls" every once in a while. You know, those times when all of a sudden things seem too overwhelming to handle? When that happens we are thrown out of balance. The enemy targets our time for solitude because those off-balance moments are the enemy’s playground.  I have learned that it is during those very "busy" moments when I need a time for solitudeeven more. Only when I pause and take time in solitude, to pray and process the whirlwind of emotions that always accompany those "curveballs", can I regain my equilibrium and bring me back in balance.

Jesus practiced solitude throughout his life and ministry.  He sought solitude prior to preaching (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42), after hearing about the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13), after feeding the multitude (Matthew 14:23), before choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12), and at the end of his life he sought solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36).  If Jesus Himself needed time to be with the Father, how much more do we need this time?

Solitude is a primary spiritual discipline. Dallas Willard says, “solitude is generally the most fundamental in the beginning of the spiritual life, and it must be returned to again and again as that life develops.”  If we are to grow spiritually, we need to continuously practice the discipline of solitude preferably on a daily basis. Solitude has become my foundation for the practice of other disciplines such as meditation, journaling, and prayer.

Solitude rarely happens unless it's scheduled. Therefore, the first most important step is carving out the time.  Log it in your calendar as “appointment with God”. Anytime that works best for you is the best time. The important thing is that you take time.  Pretty soon you won’t need to log it in anymore, because it will become a natural part of your schedule.

I like to think of solitude as one of my renewal rituals and a time for some R&R (rest and reflection). Rituals allow us to create our own ways or strategies of doing things that inspire us and that work best for us.  We can uplift or elevate the way we do ordinary things so that a simple task rises to the level of something special - as in putting the “extra” in the ordinary, making it extraordinary.  As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a large portion of my time keeping the home clean.  I have learned to incorporate cleaning as part of this renewal ritual.  I may not be sitting still, but my mind is free and open, allowing a time for solitude and prayer.  To elevate the task, I may put on my special apron, play a soothing music, or light a sweet smelling candle, allowing an enriched sense of well-being as I take delight in a clean home that exudes serenity and invites more solitude. Which brings us to the next step: finding your own place of peace and comfort.

Retreating to your own place of peace and comfort can be one of the highlights of solitude. You could dedicate a corner of a room (perhaps by the window?) and possibly decorate it with a comfortable chair or chaise, coupled with a nice lamp and table for tea, and maybe a beautiful basket for fave books and journals?. Or it could be in the warmth and comforts of your bed.  You can possibly add a luxuriously soft blanket and pillows (just be careful not to fall asleep:). Or it could even be in the sanctuary of your car which has become the more common spot for me. When lived in Pismo Beach, I parked by the beach after I dropped the kids off at school and indulged in the beauty of God's creation.  These days, I park in San Francisco after dropping Isabella off , either by the ballet with the view of the beautiful Opera House and City Hall, or by the marina with the view of the awesome Golden Gate bridge.  Anywhere it may be, I look forward to it everyday. As I go to my place of solitude, I am excited about what will happen and I wait expectantly. I know my time there would be something rich and fruitful. It is a place where I retire for renewal and a place to commune and delight with the Lord.

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