I’m a Nebraska farm girl so I know the importance of rain. Soil with the right amount of moisture creates the perfect environment for seeds to sprout and grow and flourish.
Most of the time I let my soul experience drought. It’s easier to just keep pushing, to keep pouring out, instead of pouring nourishment back in.
I need help. What about you?
Insert the discipline of solitude.
In Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton said, “In solitude we allow God to help us.”
Barton describes a spiritual retreat where her group practiced solitude and silence. Even at their lunch time, when they all gathered for a communal meal, there was no talking. This opened up spaces in Barton’s heart and revealed several of the things she was needing to address with the Father.
I thought this was beautiful. I’m naturally introverted and don’t mind time alone, but I try to fill that space with something: reading a book and pondering it, listening to music, watching a show, working on my endless to-do list. Even when I might be sitting quietly, my mind is going a million miles an hour, going back over a conversation the day before or worrying over a possible problem that may or may not come to pass.
Solitude helps guide us into stillness. In the stillness we know and trust that only the Father can meet our needs, as He did for the Israelites. As they faced the Red Sea before them and the Egyptians coming up behind them, Moses reminded the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (Exodus 14:13-14).
Barton said, “One of the fundamental purposes of solitude is to give us a concrete way of entering into such stillness, so that God can come in and do what only God can do. For the most part, I’m not sure we human beings are capable of being still and letting God fight for us without a discipline to help us do it. This is a very deep kind of rest indeed”.
So how do we practice the discipline of solitude? Many of us live in places where the noise never stops and it can be hard to leave our responsibilities behind to get away. It might take some creativity and definitely a lot of intentionality (hence why it is a discipline). Here are a few of the recommendations that Barton gives:
- Settle into a comfortable position in your body and sit quietly for a few moments, breathing deeply, becoming aware of God’s presence with you and your desire to be present with God.
- Notice what is true about you these days; don’t rush to make anything happen.
- Don’t try to do anything with what you are knowing except to be with it.
- Feel the difference between trying to fight it and letting God fight for you. What does it mean for you to be still and let God fight for you in this particular area?
I appreciated these prompts for how to direct my thoughts in solitude. I can get so distracted and sidetracked, and then feel frustrated because I come away feeling overwhelmed instead of experiencing deep rest. I have also found I need plenty of time to enter a time of solitude and let my heart and mind and body adjust and detox from the noise that I’m used to. If I try to rush too fast, it becomes about getting something out of the time rather than allowing God to reveal and speak.
What has been your experience with the practice of solitude? How have you made this a rhythm of your life, or how would you like to? Do you have any creative ways to practice solitude that work well in your context? Let’s share together in the comments!
Here’s the reading plan for the rest of the book!
March 19: Chapter 3
March 26: Chapter 4
April 2: Chapter 5
April 9: Chapter 6
April 16: Chapter 7
April 23: Chapter 8
April 30: Chapter 9 and Appendices