Not being in a hurried rush means becoming present to people around us. People we weren’t seeing as we went by in a blur with our daily to-do list.
Or thrown off mid conversation by our phone notifications.
Or an increase in our distractibility overall.
What is the place we incorrectly desire to be distracted away from?
It is a very misunderstood virtue.
For now I introduce us to healthy solitude, how the metaphor of wilderness serving as a form of healthy solitude is crucial for us moving forward in our lives. Solitude is a crucial solution to much of what I’ll be writing about at this website.
When fully engaged in a healthy manner, solitude is a place the soul draws from to replenish, not to go into despair.
Solitude is not loneliness, as Henri Nouwen rightly distinguished in his book Reaching Out.
Instead solitude is a place of strength when engaged properly. We can look no further than Jesus in seeing the importance of solitude.
John Mark Comer in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry helps reframe the many references of Jesus retreating into a wilderness, pulling back from the crowds, entering into days of prayer, as not states of entering into weakness but instead entering into places of strength.
Solitude is a place of strength:
“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” because it was there and only there, that Jesus was at the height of his spiritual powers. It was only after a month and a half of prayer and fasting in the quite place that he had the capacity to take on the devil himself and walk away unscathed. (P. 125)
The issue at hand is the magnification of constant distraction in our modern world. But it’s merely intensified in our modern age, especially over the past thirteen years since the iPhone launched.
But here is Jesus, 2,000 years ago and free of a cell phone and breaking news red banners, in need of drawing into a state of solitude on numerous occasions. He needed to draw away from the noise of that era so He could hear from His Father right then and there.
C.S. Lewis fictionalized in a very true metaphor in his book The Screwtape Letters, that the devil’s realm is a ‘Kingdom of Noise.’ In fact, the demons and the devil together declare “We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”
It’s no surprise that noise and distraction and a hurried life leaves all of us crippled in our soul. Drained of energy, even the most hustle driven among us, we know we must retreat into solitude and rest now and then. Otherwise all the noise out there just keeps distracting.
But the moment of solitude and retreat into the wilderness, be it from a rushed life, too many kid’s practices, several board meetings, church committees, and recreation league softball, whatever those appointments were, the moment you can stand still for 10 minutes and retreat into the present moment, is the moment you find a slow stillness that nourishes.
What’s at stake is missing the present moments in our lives. The literal here and now. Comer emphasizes that all our “hurried digital distraction is robbing us of the ability to be present.” (P 121)
Because the amazing flipped on it’s head reality about God’s way of things, is that through solitude and stillness, we become more present to God, other people, all that is good, beautiful, and true in our world, even present to our own souls.
It’s flipped on its head because we wouldn’t expect that we become better connected with people through solitude. Yet, it’s that deep of a well that it does indeed render a chance for us to strengthen our relational bonds.
As Ryan Holiday puts it regarding becoming present, it “demands all of us. It’s not nothing. It may be the hardest thing in the world.” (P 25 of Stillness Is The Key). Entering solitude to become more present takes action, it’s certainly not nothing.
What would you do with an increase in solitude? Would you welcome it or find yourself cascading into an unhealthy loneliness? In solitude, we are guaranteed to find Jesus there, in no rush and filled with all the patience in the world there ever could be.
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