Pastor Viewpoint: Seeking spiritual solitude
Recently, I've been thinking more about the importance of solitude and down-time. I'm an introvert so I already have a great appreciation for having some free minutes carved into the day in order to recharge.
However, that is different than setting aside time to connect in a spiritual way. I confess I'm not quite as good at that. You see, I actually like being plugged-in. I like checking my phone, being up-to-date on the news, knowing where my kids are and being able to check in with family members, friends and work at my convenience. The few times I've been sequestered out in some remote area, I have a great feeling of dread about the whole thing. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. We've gotten to this point with our ability to connect to anyone and anything at all times, that not being able to do so can actually cause anxiety.
For several years now, Bethel Lutheran has held a retreat for women in the spring. It's a weekend where women can come to unwind. They can come with other female friends or family members. They can come alone. They can come to connect, meet and visit with other women of all ages. They can come to relax, have some alone time, read some books or find some time with nature in a beautiful setting. They can come to worship, hear inspirational stories of faith and grow in their own walk with the Lord. The time is theirs to use in whatever way best nourishes their souls. The first year I went, I wondered what I was going to do all weekend? Wouldn't all this relaxing just stress me out? What I learned is that it can be good to set aside time to do things that we normally wouldn't and force ourselves out of our comfort zones.
Now having been on this retreat for a couple years, I'm finding that there is value in tending to one's soul, the same way we so carefully tend to the other things in our lives that matter to us. Why do we seem so reluctant to give that same kind of attention to ourselves and to our spiritual journeys? Sometimes what we need to do is take time to practice prayer, to study the Bible, to laugh and cry and connect with others in the body of Christ in ways that don't happen as we race past each other at event after event.
The Bible talks about the importance of finding time for this solitude. The Prophet Isaiah says this, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." (Isaiah 30:15). It was also a practice that Jesus modeled for us. In Mark 1:35 for example, Jesus seeks out time for himself, "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." There are several other examples as well, but the point is, that we are meant to be spiritual beings who connect with God and others through numerous ways, one of which is taking time to find quiet spaces to think, be, and pray. This also gives us the opportunity to look and listen for ways in which God might choose to be present in our lives. This summer, carve out some time to try this for yourself and see if it renews your soul as it did for Jesus!