(photo credit: athena grace)
In the final installment of this three-part series, I'll detail some practical hand-holds for how to approach a time of solitude. Following these steps is certainly not mandatory, but I believe them to be helpful for getting the most out of your time away. We'll quickly cover four basic parts, and I recommend the order as much as the pieces. With that said, let's dive in:
PART 1: GET MOVING
Do something active to get the blood moving (i.e. short run or hike). Once your body and mind are fully awake, find a place your body can be comfortable. Read a bit of scripture and write down your thoughts.
PART 2: LOOK BACK
Review your last season. Have you avoided compulsion? Are your identities in the right order? (Christian, spouse, parent, student, employee…etc) Are you hitting your goals? Are you enjoying life? Are you resting? How would you describe the season you've just walked through.
PART 3: LOOK FORWARD
Look at your upcoming season. Take time to hear what God calling you to do. What would you like to accomplish? Who would you like to invest in? Write these things down so that you’ll have them to evaluate in your next solitude.
PART 4: DREAM
Write down what you’d like the next two years to look like for you. What are the personal goals? What hopes do you have for your relationships? What opportunities do you want to pursue? (keep in mind, this is NOT a time for planning, simply dreaming) Are there activities or people that would be life-giving that you want to give more attention to?
"If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can't afford to not practice silence and solitude."
TRANSITIONING OUT OF SOLITUDE
Athletes know to properly “cool-down” after an event. The same concept is helpful after an extended time of solitude. Finish your day by having a tasty dinner with your friends or family and share the things that stood out to you. Ask them for feedback on your goals. Ask them what they think would be helpful for you moving forward.
The people who get paid a lot of money to study millenials say that millenials care deeply about being authentic. If you are young and full of dreams about the future, you can't afford to not practice silence and solitude. It’ll keep you from pretending that a curated online life means anything. Pretending that digital relationships can replace eating or crying or laughing together in the same room. Pretending that sex is only a physical act and not a spiritual one. Pretending that a life in a cubicle for a product or service you don’t care about is the best you can do. You will only be able to quit pretending, to break the addiction, and to walk forward with powerful clarity if you take the time to sit and listen to God.
When I get away into silence and solitude, the volume of all my compulsions is turned down. And that is incredibly uncomfortable. Because we are addicted to our compulsions and they keep us from looking ourselves in the eyes and seeing what is chaotic and messy.
But let me tell you what else happens.
The volume of the voice of my perfect father creeps up. My calling becomes clearer. I breathe more deeply and I feel the freedom described in the Scriptures and songs that I
participate in every Sunday. There is no cheap counterfeit or shortcut for this in the life of the believer.
“God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
God wasn’t in the earthquake;
God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”
The same silence that pulls back the curtain and smoke is where the healer is found. Silence and solitude will not be given to you, you have to take it for yourself. He is not waiting for your performance, He is waiting for the quiet.
I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). A more detailed list of practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.