In Solitude, But Not Alone

Today is Tuesday, the twenty-ninth of March, 2022, in the fourth week of Lent.

May the peace of Christ be with you, today!

Day 23,392

As expected, my work schedule is changing, pretty much immediately. It’s not a terribly drastic change, and there is only a mild down-side to it. I was asked, yesterday after noon, if I would consider switching from Fridays to Thursdays for my every-week Computer Center shift. I will be working from 11:15AM to 8:15PM every Thursday, going forward. The down-side to this is that it will be two nights a week that I basically don’t have any family time. But, I now have Fridays off, and every other week, I will have a four-day weekend! Of course, it is also true that every other week I will be working three consecutive days, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

As this is beginning right away, I will be off this Friday, but will not work Thursday until next week, as I already have twenty hours scheduled for this pay period. The pay week begins on Fridays, so for the next pay week, I will be working Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday for my twenty hours. Another bonus is that I will now be off for Mama’s birthday, which is a week from this Friday!

C and I enjoyed the couples massage so much that we are scheduling one for Mother’s Day.

And today is R’s birthday. Happy birthday to R!

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

"God of grace and truth,
make me whole,
a person of integrity who heals and makes peace.
I pray for eyes that see what's best in others,
a graceful and candid mouth,
hands that never twist but hold up truth,
a heart that aims to encourage,
and feet that pursue my neighbor's best.
Amen."

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
(Numbers 23:19 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that "God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind" (Numbers 23:19)
2. for times of solitude, essential for re-energizing the spirit
3. for Biblical accounts of dreams and visions
4. that there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus
5. that nothing, not even my sin, can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (see number 4 if you doubt that)

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12 ESV)

Today’s prayer word is “solitude.” To me, this is not so much a word to be used in prayer as it is a condition that is helpful to prayer. Solitude is one of the classic spiritual disciplines, going hand in hand with silence, meditation, and prayer.

I find the quote at the beginning of the reading to be interesting. “The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” (Voltaire)

The thing is, when we observe solitude, we are not truly alone. To be certain, there are no other humans around, and, hopefully, we can find a place where the outside noise is either at a minimum, or purely nature sounds. I can sit in my back yard and be in solitude, but there is a lot of noise around. Even so, I am not “alone,” because my Father is with me, via the Holy Spirit.

Here’s another thing about solitude. My wife and I have sat in canvas chairs, on the banks of the Paluxy river, in Glen Rose, and I have felt “solitude.” So, yes, I believe that solitude can be observed or practiced, even in the presence of another.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
(Mark 1:35 NIV)

At about that same time he climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God.
(Luke 6:12 MSG)

In the Luke passage, I believe solitude is implied. We see, in the life of Jesus, that He spent both time with people, and time alone with God. Both are important. As a mostly introvert (INFJ), I can recognize this, but being around a lot of people is tiresome for me, especially when I don’t know some of them. The INFJ person is energized by alone time, but also prioritizes people and emotions.

So solitude is important, not just for introverts, but for anyone who desires discipline in their lives, especially discipline regarding prayer and meditation.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.
(Psalms 104:33-34 NIV)

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
(Joshua 1:8 NIV)

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
(Psalms 77:11-12 NIV)

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
(Psalms 119:147-148 NIV)

These are also verses that go well with the concept/discipline of solitude.

I’m reading, in Spiritual Classics, an excerpt from a book by John Wesley, called The New Birth. In this excerpt, said to be from Chapter 3, he is discussing sin and condemnation. We are all familiar with the popular verse from Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1 ESV)

And, when we read the Old Testament, we see all kinds of sacrifices and provisions for unintentional sin, sin that might occur either by accident, or simply out of ignorance. But for intentional sin, or flat-out disobedience, there doesn’t seem to be any provision.

I like what Wesley has to say about this. “Believers who are weak in faith may be overcome by these assaults; they may become inordinately angry or think badly of others with only a very slight concurrence of the will.” God will show us, in such cases, that we have “acted foolishly,” and convince us that we have “swerved away from the perfect law, from the mind which was in Christ.” As a result, we will feel “grieved with a godly sorrow and lovingly ashamed before God.” However, there is no need, he says to feel condemnation! “God does not charge them with folly, but has compassion, even ‘as a father has compassion on his children’ (Ps. 103:12).” We have the confidence to say,

See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!
(Isaiah 12:2-3 NLT)

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)

“Most of life consists of what we cannot usually see. Dreams and visions are means of seeing the reality that is inaccessible to our senses.”

Thus begins a reading by Eugene Peterson, called “On Dreams and Visions.” He goes on to describe the implements that we use to see very small things (microscopes) and things very far away (telescopes). But, he says, “we use dreams and visions to see the truth.”

For modern Christians like me, this is a difficult thing to “wrap my head around.” Sure, I’ve had dreams. But not the kind, at least as far as I know, that reveal truth. And, to my knowledge, I have had no “visions.”

Nevertheless, this world fights to “externalize us.” In other words, it wants to “diminish the rich interiors of our lives and reduce us to what we can see and pick up and buy.” Even the most well-meaning Christians fall prey to the extravagance of showy production “worship services” with flashing lights, smoke machines, and loud, boisterous music.

“We define ourselves by what we can put on a job description. God gives us dreams and visions so that we have access to the whole thing: the world for which Christ died, the whole person in whom Christ lives.”

The Bible is full of accounts of dreams and visions: Abraham, Jacob, Balaam, Solomon, Mary, and Joseph, to name a few. I have to ask, why would it be different for me, for us? I read about these remarkable events, and my life deepens and my world changes a little bit.

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

And, I come around, full-circle again, to the prayer word.

Solitude.

Solitude, which accompanies and enhances the discipline of meditation and contemplation, which is where we know the strength of God, His great salvation, His awesome forgiveness (and lack of condemnation), our hope, our success and prosperity (not necessarily material, mind you), and reflection on His wonderful and mighty deeds, both in our own lives and in history. And solitude, where the possibility of dreams and visions increases.

Father, I’m not worried about dreams and visions. In the same way that I’m not all that concerned that I don’t witness astonishing miracles that people in biblical times saw. I do wonder, sometimes, why we do not see those, but it does not shake my faith, any more than questioning things that I grew up believing shakes my faith, because that has happened, as well. I guess it could be said that, for me “deconstruction” is nothing new . . . I’ve been doing that since I got to college, and here I am today, with faith as strong as ever.

I praise Your marvelous and holy name that there is no condemnation for my sins, even for those of outright, blatant disobedience, because of the fact that I am in Christ Jesus. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel sorrow for those sins, or shame because of my failure. Those are the same thing as condemnation. I firmly believe that my sin does not separate me from You (there are some who still teach that, and I think they are wrong). But I thank You that Your Holy Spirit is there to convict me and remind me when I do fall into doing/saying/thinking things that a follower Christ should not do/say/think.

I thank You for the times of solitude that I am able to find. Sometimes, they are simply the act of sitting here, alone in my study, reading Your Word, meditating on Your truth, and praying to you. My favorite times are when I can get away from all the technology and noise and simply sit outside somewhere and observe Your creation while contemplating Your presence and Your glory. Thank You for those times and those places. I pray that we will be able to escape to one of them, soon.

I will say, though, Father, that, should You choose to bless me with dreams and/or visions, I would welcome them. I would welcome anything in my life that would draw me closer to You, both in body and in spirit.

All glory to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

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