lenten disciplines: solitude

Last Sunday, the Table at CPC launched a new series about Lent centered around the spiritual disciplines. We learned about solitude, its presence and purpose in our lives, and the importance of developing the practice. As an extrovert, that idea is painful to me. I want to be with people, I want to feel connected, I want the noise around me to make me feel included. Brad challenged us to make room for solitude this week, and to be honest, I thought about it…and thought that was enough. I’d already decided to give up radio on my morning commute for Lent. That’s enough solitude carved into my day, right?

Then Tuesday happened.

It was a great day on campus, a day of prayer and fasting, ending with a special event in which all the students, staff, faculty, and local parents gathered for a time of worship, seeking guidance, and communion. We broke the fast together afterwards. It was a beautiful time.

I was supposed to leave work and head down to be with a dear friend and her family for the evening, but the steady rain was beginning to freeze and it looked like driving would quickly be dangerous. I decided to just go home; Jon was out of town.

After a soaking, cold walk across campus to my car, and a slow, silent drive home, I got home and beelined for a bath; I was in pajamas by 7pm. I sat on the couch under blankets, a lavender candle glowing nearby, and journaled my thoughts from the day. I thought about how this was solitude: the warm quiet at the end of the day, the peace that grew slowly.

I pulled up a delicious recipe and decided to bake a triple berry breakfast cake just for the heck of it (I never just bake). I worked in the kitchen: slowly, methodically, silently.

In reflecting on my night of solitude, I’ve discovered that slowness is a key element. It’s doing things consciously, on purpose, lacking the hurry that is usually so characteristic of how I spend my days.

Silence is another key part of this solitude business. I won’t lie, the morning commutes feel longer without the sound of the KS95 morning show. I’ve caught myself reaching for my radio multiple times. Silence is uncomfortable to me. I think part of growing up is identifying what causes the good kind of discomfort (for me, it’s working out consistently, addressing conflict in healthy ways, and being alone in silence) and then forcing yourself to do it anyways, because you know it’s good for you.

Have you practiced solitude before? What did it look like, and what did you learn from it?

2 thoughts on “lenten disciplines: solitude

  1. Deborah says:

    I have learned more about solitude than ever I would have imagined…and this would be coming from what I now consider to be a former extrovert. 🙂 It’s been a long process, and I won’t belabor the details, but it began when I moved from living as six people in 860 square feet, and a dorm of 52 girls into my own home, by myself, and as roommates have moved out and I’ve found myself living in silence…and then it *really* kicked in when I became more and more housebound over the past couple of years.

    The first ‘dramatically quiet’ time was when I slipped a disc in my back and was on the floor of my bedroom for three weeks, in a completely silent house. The second ‘dramatically quiet’ time was by this time two years ago, when it was becoming increasingly difficult to exist in my home and I was less and less able to sleep through the night. By the time I got to this point last year, and had been off work for a month and passed each quiet, painful hour, well, I like I say–I call myself a former extrovert.

    And yet–I must be truthful and say that while being the sanguine, social butterfly that I was for so much of my life was wonderful in the ways that God used that element of my personality to both reveal His work in my life, to reach others, and to teach me and use me as that person, the silent, so silent, pathways of pain and isolation have become as much of my being as my DNA, and have become critical to my knowing and understanding the God Who made me, Who loves me, Who has redeemed me and Who continues to love me to the point that He is molding me to be ever more like His Son Jesus. And He was willing to do what it took to break through my loud, heaps-of-people personality to make sure that I got the message, contrary to what I had believed was best. And, I can truthfully say, pain included, I would not trade all that silence and solitude and learning to live the moments of life with God, for all the houses full of husbands and childrens and peoples for which I had so longed, for all the world.

    Although I still have much learning and growth to do, I can say that I treasure the silence and the solitude. And, I can say that I treasure the moments where I am gifted with people–just the other night, I ate dinner with my best friend, her husband and their three and one year olds. That was the most interruptive my dinner has been in months (well, about four weeks–since the last time we ate dinner together!)…and it was WONDERFUL. And yet, I enjoy my quiet meals with God here in the house, too.

    Anyways…you asked for a question to be answered, not for another blog to be posted! Hehehe…but clearly, (and I think because for me, the change has been so drastic), this subject is one that is close to my heart. I am glad to hear what you are learning, Maggie! I am praying for you and Jon as you walk with one another with God!

  2. We had a large group about silence/solitude a few weeks ago, and watched Rob Bell’s video about noise: http://youtu.be/nvyXie8_aYw. I’m guessing you guys have seen it at some point, but if not, you should watch it. I feel like it gets to the heart of a lot of what you are saying. Miss you both!

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