Then Caleb quieted the peoplebefore Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” – Numbers 13:30
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. – Mark 1:35
And He *said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) – Mark 6:31
– All verses taken from New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Christmas is a time of year when we should focus on peace, joy, and sharing goodwill and love with all. If you are like me, however, this is also the busiest and hectic season. In addition to year-end reports, endless work meetings, and work-related “holiday” celebrations, we have gift shopping for a bottomless list, Christmas pageants and parades for the kids’ schools, mailing out Christmas cards, family gatherings on Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day… and remember to breathe, eat, sleep, and use the bathroom in between all this. You get the picture.
It can be anything but restful, let alone peaceful, when one has so much on her to-do list. When I started to feel this way over the last weekend (all the while still recovering from yet another bout with a nasty flu-like cold and cough), I knew that I needed to re-center myself. To re-center myself, I needed to pray. It is rather difficult, however, to re-center oneself when you have two hyperactive boys constantly tugging at your shirt and asking for one thing or another. Even when I have time to myself at home, which is rare to begin with, I find myself thinking of all the things I still have to accomplish on my list, or worse yet, I end up second-guessing decisions I made or tasks I completed. In essence, I can’t get a break from myself.
This is where I found myself this morning, having missed another timely Blogs by Claire post which was several hours late in scheduling. When I realized I was trying to be in control and not actually accomplishing anything I wanted (you can’t finish all things at once when each requires your full attention), I turned yet again to Holy Scripture to find solace, and to regain solitude. I needed some clarity and peace. The verses I cited above were perfect examples of what I need (for more verses or to search for specific subjects, go to https://www.biblegateway.com). I began searching for what I wanted, which really is “quiet” (including how to silence my inner voices from reciting my to-do list). What I found pointed to the importance of not only being “alone,” but also the value of going “away” to create a space that forces complete silence.
In the first verse from the Book of Numbers, the Israelite named Caleb had to quiet down the panicking people of God before he could even be heard. There is so much that demands our attention, both internal and external, that it would be impossible to focus on any “one” voice that speaks to us. Listening to someone or something only happens when all other “noise” is silenced so that our full attention is given to one voice or one sound. This is something Caleb knew, and that is wisdom in practice. To be able to focus, we need to silence everything else. But how do we silence all that noise when we are surrounded by it? This is where the next verse gave me insight.
The second Bible verse from the Gospel according to Saint Mark, the author tells us that Jesus got up early in the morning, LEFT the premises ALONE, and went to a SECLUDED place to PRAY. We love our families and the people we keep in our close circle, but sometimes we just need time AWAY from them so we can be ALONE. Jesus knew that the best time to hear the voice of God the Father was to do so first thing in the morning. He also knew that hearing God would mean going to a place where no one could disturb him.
Secluding himself at the time of day when no one else would be up and about to disturb him in order to be alone with God is a practice that some Christian believers continue today. We call this practice a “retreat.” If you’ve ever come across someone who came back from a contemplative retreat or other spiritual retreat, you may have noticed that they had an air of peace (at least they are “supposed” to be more peaceful). Retreats, by design, are meant to give us a “space” and “time” alone so we can re-center or refocus our attention on God and our relationship with God. It is also time to rest.
This “time of rest” is also evident in the third verse also found in the same Gospel book. Jesus in this verse, again, told his apostles to come away by themselves so that they could “rest.” He obviously saw the value of taking time away from all the others and resting, or “retreating” so that they could re-center and refocus. Being alone, whether it is on retreat or not, has tremendous value in helping our body, mind, heart, and spirit to re-center, to refocus, and regenerate. Solitude, especially when it is solitude in unfamiliar surroundings, forces us to step outside of ourselves. It also forces us to put control and trust in something (or someone) else other than relying on our own strength.
In The Last Prophet book series, the main character of the series discovers that being alone is not always a bad thing when we understand its value. Although she finds herself feeling alone and abandoned in some situations, she relearns that she is never truly alone when she spends that time in prayer and communing with her Heavenly Father. Scripture tells us that when we draw close to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8, NASB). Our main character, is reminded of this over and over again whenever faced with temptations and feelings of loneliness.
Another value of being alone is we learn who we really are. When you are surrounded by no one else but yourself, you are forced to face the reality of “you.” When we are truly alone in our environment, we have no one else to compare ourselves to – we discover our true worth is validated by ourselves and not the opinion of others. We learn, then, when we are alone, what and how to be accepting of ourselves.
This is an ongoing lesson I learn whenever I am faced with doubts of my self-worth. I force myself to “retreat” from the world by taking a spiritual health/mental health day to be alone with God, and He reminds me that I Am loved and precious in His eyes. He refreshes my physically by forcing me to rest (sleep and relax), mentally by taking burdens and worries of the outside world away, emotionally and spiritually by reminding me that I Am His. When I return from my retreating, all is right in my world again.
When do you find time to be alone? What do you do in your “alone” time? Comment in the space provided.
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