I remember when my husband and I were first courting. He was my next-door neighbor. I travelled quite a bit and to be honest, it took me a while before I noticed him beyond the traditional neighborly wave as we passed in the cul de sac.
Our relationship began casually, as neighborhood friends, but the more time we spent together, the more our relationship grew.
We loved taking walks. Living in a large suburban neighborhood afforded us a lot of space for our walks. Sometimes we would talk, sometimes we would simply “be” with each other as we led my 10lb Shih Tzu, Sophie, around the endless maze of sidewalks.
The process of intentionally being together deepened our relationship in ways that couldn’t have happened otherwise.
I could have read his bio or his resume and learned some things about my husband. I could have interviewed family and friends that have known him to get a greater understanding of who he is. I could even go so far as to ask him questions about his values and beliefs, his goals, his faith. Yet even that would give me limited information.
You see, knowing about my husband is not the same as knowing my husband. There is another kind of knowing, an intimacy and trust that can only be acquired by being with someone – intentionally.
It is the same in our faith. For each of us in our relationship with God, in order to build a strong spiritual foundation for our lives to thrive, we must spend intentional time being with Him in order to know Him and to build the intimacy and trust that we desire.
Henri Nouwen describes in Out of Solitude,
“Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention.”1
1. Solitude is the place where you establish your faith. No matter who your parents are or how great their faith is, it is not your faith. Solitude is the place where you get to know your Savior, where you close the door to the rest of the world for a moment simply to be with Him, to experience Him, to grow more in love with Him. Nothing can replace the intimacy and trust that solitude nurtures in your relationship with God.
Do you long to know your identity? Are you drained from continually “doing” while never finding the value of your “being”? When you stop listening outward to find your identity, your value, your worth and start listening inward, the Holy Spirit’s still small voice will echo your soul’s true identity as the Beloved of the Father. The foundation of your faith will grow stronger, deeper, richer.
2. Solitude is the place where your healing begins. I read an article by Mike Mchargue that shared some scientific data on meditation’s impact on your physical health. It seems that individuals who spend time in meditation and solitude regularly experience less stress, lower blood pressure, and reduced distraction in their lives. 2
Solitude not only impacts your physical health, it promotes emotional health as well. By cultivating the practice of solitude, you learn how to calm yourself, breathe, and experience healing that only comes as you feel safe enough in His presence to expose your deepest wounds. Solitude provides the salve that heals, restores and forgives. The more you embrace solitude, the more connected you will feel with others, the more compassion and love you will be able to offer others in your life.
3. Solitude is the only place that allows us to experience true relationship. Most of us in the evangelical community have been taught some guideline or outline for effective prayer. Whether it is the ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) model or others, the direction tends to be one-way — us towards God. While prayer is biblical and necessary for spiritual growth and maturity, how well can a relationship flourish if one person does all of the talking?
Solitude is the sacred space where you become still, lean in, and listen to the heartbeat of God. Your only focus is on being with Him. Jesus withdrew regularly into solitude to experience relationship with his Father, to know his Father’s will, to discern his Father’s voice and to passionately fulfill his purpose here on earth. How much more do we need to move beyond knowing about our Abba and develop an intimate, powerful relationship with Him?
Do you feel exhausted and powerless in you life and ministry? Do you long for something more? Begin today to set aside intentional time of solitude. Put nothing on your agenda except simply being with your Heavenly Father.
Let Him speak His words of life and love over you today!
1 Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1974).
2 Mike Mchargue, “How Your Brain Is Wired For God”, Relevant Magazine, July 1, 2014, http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/how-your-brain-wired-god.
Categories: solitude Tags: solitude, foundation, faith, healing, hope, relationship, intimacy
Lisa Murray is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in relationship issues. In her writing Lisa enjoys exploring the topics of spiritual and emotional wholeness in our lives and relationships. Follow her on Twitter to get your questions answered and to learn more about Lisa.