Each year, I go on an annual pilgrimage in search of solitude. It is a discipline that suits my nature as well as it benefits my soul, recharging me and preparing me for what lies ahead. Some years, I make it part of a formalized sabbatical that entails a longer period, but mostly it is just a week in the mountains without contact, without human engagement…time to read, pray, dream, and rest…time to wrestle with soul and mind undistracted by the constant buzz and hum, tweets and jingles.
As time and technology have progressed, the ability to find solitude has diminished. Few people seek solitude, and for those who do, it is nearly impossible to find even when you strive for it. In days gone by, you might find solitude haphazardly—maybe you were sick for a few days, maybe a storm took the power out—whatever the case, you found yourself unexpectedly experiencing the benefits of solitude. Today, however, contact is constant. Even in the remotest areas, there is a cell tower providing 4G service and your cell phone also serves as your TV, stereo, and mailbox.
I admit that as I sought solitude this year I did so with great difficulty. The benefits of “fasting from people and distractions” did find me at times. My mind was focused and the Father was incredibly present; but, amid the modern warfare of the digital age, the length of those periods was shorter.
I have also found that people are less accepting of solitude for themselves, but especially for others. Some find it offensive that I would go to the woods by myself and not call or text or tweet to keep everyone in the loop.
Solitude is a dying discipline because we are intolerant and even afraid of it. As we lose the sacred space of solitude we also lose the benefits—learning to wait on the Lord, listening and hearing, facing our inner man and the rebellion that still dwells within, trusting in no one else, not even ourselves, and learning to rest and be content with Jesus’ presence alone.
I always feel selfish when I go away in search of solitude because our culture and people’s expectations don’t support the practice. But, in the end, having a refreshed soul and renewed focus after an extended time alone with Jesus is both selfish and the most selfless thing I can do.
Finding solitude is not the challenge. Fighting for solitude is.