As summer travels come to their end, the wilderness increases its wooing. Following a gala party with relatives and a long weekend of chit-chatty luncheons and dinners, complete with sleep deprivation from a ten-hour flight delay going out and a flight diversion requiring a three-hour bus ride coming in, I love me some solitude in this moment.
Solitude is the most fundamental discipline in the beginning of our spiritual life and as life in the spirit develops, we do well to return to solitude again and again. That’s why I introduce the discipline of solitude in the first chapter of my book in progress. When we practice solitude, we create an open empty space in our lives by purposefully abstaining from interaction with other human beings, so that, freed from competing loyalties, we can be found by God (Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible). Solitude played a large role in Jesus’ life. He and other spiritually great ones often escaped to the wilderness to find solitude. Why did the wilderness continue wooing Jesus and his followers to solitude there?
REFRESHMENT WITH GOD RESTORES
We can only give what we first receive. Jesus frequently withdrew into the wilderness, a desert place where he found rest from the multitudes and the accompanying fatigue of his ministry. There, he received a fresh supply of God’s light and power, enabling him to be more successful in his work.
At one point, I believed my ministry schedule was too busy to keep my monthly prayer day. I told myself I’d get back to it as soon as time allowed. Sure! After five or six months of hard serving without the restoration accomplished by withdrawal into the wilderness, I was quickly moving toward the despair of burnout. Fortunately, my return to the wilderness kept me from completely abandoning my desire for a life of service to my God. With my mind re-centered on God’s will and my heart re-fixed on his love, my confident trust in his empowerment became renewed. My escapes to the wilderness enabled me to grow in the grace necessary to return to the world prepared for giving to others.
COMMUNION WITH GOD FREES
When our retreats to the solitude of the wilderness fail to happen, we become a people proud of our extensive interaction with others. We have all the texts and emails to document and justify our inability to get away. But, along with all the importance we might have gained, we have lost our most important connection—contact with the Divine.
Our daily interaction with other human beings influences our thinking, feeling and behaving toward conformity of a world set against God. Free from the company of others and alone with God, we have opportunity for private prayer that allows us to connect with the Holy Spirit activity which escapes our attention when we’re interacting with others. The discipline of solitude frees us from worldliness and allows us to integrate more fully into God’s Kingdom.
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:16
Recharging your spiritual life in solitude can take many forms. My current wilderness escape looks a lot like my home office. I do have a fake tree—ha! An antique Bavarian tapestry with snow-covered Alps flanked by pines woven throughout provides inspiration. A steep path leads to a humble estate. In the foreground, a well flows continually. The symbolic imagery of this tapestry creates a fitting place to seek the messages that pour forth during solitary times away with God.
Is a place of solitude wooing you? What does your wilderness look like?