Solitude is quiet within.
Do you like the sound and feel of that statement?
Hearing the words quiet within is like the sound of the ocean waves rolling onto the sand.
Quiet within looks like sun beams coming down through your window into your home.
Quiet within is a deep desire of our beating hearts. We crave it. But we lack patience and priority. Even though all of what we may need lies within a time of quiet, we have a hard time passing through the noise and motivating ourselves to get there.
How are you doing with quiet within?
Do you know how to turn off your internal volume?
Did you know that solitude is a spiritual practice?
“Scriptural solitude is the biblical practice of temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes.”– Donald Whitney
Solitude is . . . “intentional time in the quiet to be alone with God.”– John Marc Comer
This post is about how to find solitude when your off button is missing or lost.
A Bit of My Story
I got to a point in 2016 where my internal noise was so chaotic and untamed that it shouted out in the form of panic and anxiety. I did not have a turn off button. Circumstantially, my internal ruckus made perfect sense. Practically, the days and nights were overwhelming and emotional.
Over time, with help, I transformed the chaos to order and tamed my thoughts with reason. I practiced. I learned how to find and use my turn off button. If you want to know more about that particular time in my life, my friend and women’s ministry leader Annie Harley, gifted me with a short video testimony. You can take a look at the three minute version of what I learned through 2016 to 2018.
My First Practice: Vinyasa Yoga
One of the earliest methods I used to calm down was Vinyasa Yoga. Let’s not get too deep or existential. Yoga helped me with solitude for one primary reason. If you don’t constantly listen to the teacher, you will get lost in the class. In dim light, you listen to the teacher’s words for instructions to move through the hour long flow.
My licensed therapist with a seminary degree suggested yoga to me because he knew something about me that I didn’t. My brain could not simultaneously run its chaos and follow along in a yoga class. My mind took the logical jump to be present in the class rather than remain present in my 2016 mess. Clearly, that jump was the Holy Spirit’s work to help me cut through the noise.
Just before Christmas last year, I came back to yoga. I set a holy intention at the beginning of the class which typically relates to my chosen verse of the week. By the end of class, I can hear God’s wisdom during shavasana (end of class relaxation). Truly, I can hear him speak and I am grateful. This is not an advertisement to buy a membership at a yoga studio. It’s a practice I use to find solitude.
My Second Practice: Beach Walks
The other way I find solitude is through beach walks. My soul settles when I feel sun rays warming my skin. The warmth on my skin somehow levels the thoughts in my mind. Almost immediately, I feel God with me.
As I walk down A1A, I listen to the rock music that the construction workers play. I note the rhythmic sound of chirping birds and the crickets. I listen in on the instructional talk between the teacher and the student scuba divers. I nod at the wrinkled, tanned old men in beach chairs. I smile back at the dogs running ahead of their owners in their morning happy. I look at the beach bungalows being repaired one after another for their 40 year city certification.
I come prepared with ear buds, loaded podcasts and play lists, but I never listen. I don’t worry for those thirty five minutes either. I find solitude. As soon as I find it, I sense that God is moving down the street with me.
What do you find in solitude?
Internal quietness in the presence of God offers the gift of truth. Solitude replaces your version of chaos and untamed thoughts with what your soul really needs to know; with what your soul really needs to hear.
What does your soul need to know and hear? You can find the answer in solitude.
You cannot find truth while intermittently texting, googling, snapping or checking FB, IG or Twitter. You can’t find truth while adding to your to do list between bible verses. You can’t comprehend biblical wisdom while cooking during online church. You can’t find truth in chocolate or binge watching.
I like scrolling, to do lists, cooking, tv and chocolate. Frankly, I feel God’s presence while doing many of the things I like. Even so, God calls me and us to solitude.
Solitude teaches us the truth about what we actually need in our need. We don’t necessarily need the outcome we are hoping for OR the answers we greatly desire. Circumstantial relief is not reliable in the world of time and space that we live in. But the presence and comfort of the Trinity is a promise.
When I am in the midst of worry, change, loneliness, pressure or problem solving, I can be disturbed by my tendency to fill up my chest with my need for answers and outcome. I think I know how to get relief. My mind conjures up answers with to do lists. But, in solitude, I am led to find that my need is his presence. Everything I desire lies in his presence.
Questions to ask in solitude
As I gear up for my beach walk, I ask God, “What are you up to and What do you have to say?”
This is a good way to start because it lets God set the tone. If left to me and my quivering heart, I would jump to – God, what have I done wrong and how can I do better? I know those aren’t the questions he’s looking for me to ask. I order the conversation with God going first.
This positive practice of ordering the conversation has taught me that my father has good things to say. Along those same lines, his plans are good. Even though I may have hard or bad things happening in my life at any given time, his goodness tells me that the outcome also will be good.
We are not waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are not waiting for God to turn his back because he has other stuff going on. I don’t know exactly how I have reconciled bad things with his goodness, but solitude plays a role. His truth rather than my faulty truth becomes central when I am committed to the practice of solitude.
Are you convinced that solitude is a worthy spiritual practice? Are you already practicing it? Will you give it a try?
- Have you thought about the spiritual practice of solitude lately? In what ways are you practicing it now?
- I really like sitting at my desk by the window at home. But I am rarely alone at home. I find it too hard to escape questions and chit chat so I head out to nearby places to practice solitude. Practically speaking, when and how could you carve out solitude in your week?
- We think we know what we need in our need. Think about letting God’s presence and wisdom inform what you actually need. Spend some time in solitude. Journal how God may have changed your view of what you need. What’s different? How do you feel?
- Solitude helps us reconcile the hard things in our life with his goodness. In solitude, welcome God to speak to whatever is hard – your heart, a relationship, a loss, a financial situation. God’s thoughts are higher and kinder than our thoughts. Let him show you his goodness in solitude.