Sunday, July 3, 2011

Solitude: Why We Need to Make Time For It But Don't

"Be still and know that I am God..."
-Psalm 46:10
As a mom of two little ones, I have found it quite challenging to just sit and "be still." Can you relate? Even if your children are grown or you don't have any kids, you may struggle with the idea of solitude. Being completely alone can feel strange, especially when you're used to a small child following you into the bathroom or your husband wanting some attention. And being in complete silence--no phone, no computer, no iPod, no noise of any kind--can certainly seem awkward. Yet, as women, I believe we desperately need to spend some time in solitude.

What is solitude?
The word "solitude" comes from the Latin solus, meaning "alone." Solitude, then, is the state of being alone. But solitude also involves relaxing, meditating, praying, and sometimes not thinking at all.

What comes to mind when you think of solitude? For me, solitude is an early morning before the sun rises when everyone else in the house is still asleep. It's being all by myself, cup of coffee in hand, sitting in the peaceful still and quiet of our living room. No noise, no distractions, just silence.

Why do we need solitude?
I would venture to guess that most women, especially moms, do not take time for solitude for many reasons, which I will discuss in a moment. And yet, the benefits of solitude are so far-reaching that not to take even a few moments each day to ourselves, minus electronic devices, can be detrimental to our health and well-being. So, why should we make time for solitude?

(1) Solitude gives us time to reflect on ourselves and our families and specific problems we might be facing. When we take time to be still, pray, and think, we can come up with new ideas and possible solutions to specific challenges in our lives. For example, one afternoon during my quiet time, I started thinking about a particular problem I was having with our oldest daughter. After spending time in the Word and in prayer, I found that part of my struggle was with myself, not just my daughter. I was expecting our two-year-old to behave and act much more maturely than her age, and that was not only unfair to her, but also not possible. My expectations were too high and needed adjustment.

(2) Solitude also helps us to appreciate our children and husbands more and makes us more sensitive to their needs.
I know that after spending time apart from my family, even when my girls are taking their naps, I feel a renewed sense of love and compassion for them when we are reunited. Our time apart has helped both of us to recharge. Now, we can enjoy each others' company again, in tune to one another's needs.

(3) When we make time for ourselves, we can take a deep breath and relax. In turn, we improve our health by reducing our anxiety and lowering our blood pressure. Solitude gives us a much-needed break and helps to restore our energy levels. While sipping a favorite drink, we can tune into ourselves and tune out the world.

So, if we need solitude so much, why don't we make time for it?

Of course the obvious answer is guilt. As women, we feel pulled in so many directions that we can never sit down and just relax. There's always something else we think we should be doing. So-and-so is making her own baby food, so I need to make my own, too. It sounds ridiculous, but you know it's true.

I am guilty myself. If you asked my husband, he would probably say that one of his biggest complaints about me is that I can't just sit still and be quiet. While he is sitting on the couch, relaxing, watching TV, I am up running around making a racket. Yes, I have a hard time just sitting, and that's because there always seems to be something undone that I think needs to be finished.

Another reason why I think women struggle with taking time for solitude is the fear of what we might discover while we're sitting quietly being introspective. Maybe while we're communing with God we suddenly feel led to homeschool our children or start an at-home business. When do we have time to do that? We already have so much on our plates that the thoughts of discovering something else that we need to do terrifies us.

Or what if we begin to realize that there's something about us that we really don't like that we need to change? Maybe we find in our solitude that our thoughts keep coming back to a mommy friend whose lifestyle or career we secretly envy, or maybe we realize that we have been gossiping and need to quit. Solitude can be scary because it can reveal things about us that we need to change.

If you have small children or a hectic schedule, then you may think, "Yeah, I would love some quiet time to myself, but there is no time left in the day for solitude." I understand. With little ones, time alone is a rare luxury. But it can be done if you make solitude a priority. Think about what you do in a typical day. Are there things that you do that really don't need to be done? Maybe things you do because you think you should do them to be a good wife or mommy or things you do because you enjoy them, but really they are a waste of time. For me, that would be the exorbitant amount of time I spend on the computer. I could very easily give up 3o minutes during my kids' naptime for quiet time with the Lord, but that would mean re-prioritizing and making solitude a higher priority than reading blogs and checking email.

Even our model, Jesus Christ, found time for solitude. In fact, I think Jesus had to actively seek out time to be alone so He could think and pray. When the people heard of Jesus' power and ability to heal, they would travel for miles to hear Him speak and hopefully to be healed by Him. I can imagine the crowds pressed closely around Jesus, wanting to be near Him and feeling His powerful presence. Jesus loved these people and felt compassion for them; however, we know He, too, needed solitude:
"But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray."
Luke 5:16
"In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God."

Luke 6:12
And before Jesus was arrested, He went to pray in Gethsemane. Mark records that while there "he began to be greatly distressed and troubled" (14:33). Yet after chastising His disciples for falling asleep, Jesus continued praying. This happened two more times until Judas appeared and Jesus arrested. Even Jesus, God in the flesh, spent time in complete solitude. He knew the power of being still, alone, and in communion with God.

If our Lord and Savior made time for solitude, why not us? I know that I personally need to make solitude a priority in my daily routine. I need to cut out some computer time and tune in to myself and my Lord.

What about you? Do you make time for solitude in your day? If not, why not start today?

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