I am not a monk.
But based on how much I am a fan of solitude I may be mistaken for one.
In one of my classes for grad school, we were to explore the spiritual rhythm of extended solitude. Seeing that I had to figure out babysitting, amidst all the other things that could be accomplishable on a clear Saturday morning, I resisted the idea.
But here I was at a large garden in Los Angeles early Saturday morning, with Bible, journal, and pen, and nothing else. No phone, no computer, no friends, for almost three hours
And it was amazing.
At first, it was pretty uncomfortable. A person used to the city life is unaccustomed to sustained silence. The sounds of rustling grass and trees is honestly a weird thing to experience.
Yet in silence, God speaks. For silence affords the soul space and time to hear, a privilege often suffocated by the pace city life.
God spoke to me about key high level areas of my life–family, marriage, ministry, work, myself. Each revelation was powerful and needed at the time. By the end of it I was a man renewed with fresh vision for my life, now having heaven’s perspectives on key areas on my life. This went on for hours.
I left that place of solitude fully convinced of its power. Yet other than the power of the experience itself to compel me to solitude again, my motivation is drawn from the life of Jesus.
Jesus, son of God, full of the Holy Spirit, miracle-worker, teacher, preacher, healer–he modeled for us rhythms by which he conducted his life. More particularly, he modeled the rhythm of engagement and disengagement.
Yes he preached to thousands, visited the sick, traveled from town to town for his time of ministry. But he also retreated, rested, withdrew, and hid himself.
He disengaged from responsibility, from people, from places, from paces, from even his closest friends on earth, to be alone, alone with the Father. It is in that place where he drew strength and revelation for his life. And if Jesus needed solitude, how much more do I? And if Jesus’ life exhibited such power and fruitfulness, is it possible that this rhthym is a source of that strength?
As a charismatic, who surrounds himself with worship music, dancing, and other expressions of human emotion in God’s presence as often encouraged by our times of worship as a community, it is profoundly refreshing to connect with God in this withdrawn sense, that is, to engage with God outside of our religious activities.
I am so fully convinced of this that I am making it a family tradition for both my wife and I. We are provisioning time and space for us to each have extended times of disengagement that we might be silent and hear from God. And in an unrelenting world that demands so much of us, his voice in the place of solitude becomes ever more important to living a life of peace and power.