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The Spiritual Discipline of Solitude

Every Christian has a favorite Bible verse.  It is the one that is quoted without even thinking. And, if we are honest, we have some that are very hard for us to obey.  I won’t list all of those that are my nemeses, but I will confess to one that is extremely hard for me.  It is found in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”  I have no difficulty being mobile, engaged, and active.  But, from my childhood, being still was and is most challenging. 

Our Lord often sought time alone with the Father or with His disciples in the midst of those that wanted his attentions constantly. Consider these Bible verses….

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35).  Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32).

Richard FosterLoneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.

C.S. LewisWe live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore, starved for meditation and true friendship.

John MillerPeople who take the time to be alone usually have depth, originality, and quiet reserve.

Donald Whitney in his wonderful book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, begins the first chapter trying to help his readers to overcome this bad image of the word discipline. He tells of a 6-year-old boy, whose parents enrolled him in music lessons. After school every afternoon, he has to practice his guitar while watching his friends play in the park across the street. Whitney says that is, “discipline without direction.” And we would all agree that it’s torture to a 6-year-old boy to have to stay home and practice the guitar while his friends are playing.

But Whitney now asks the reader to imagine they boy is visited by an angel one afternoon during guitar practice. The angel gives the boy a vision of a professional guitarist playing in Carnegie Hall. Well, of course the little boy is astonished by what he sees and hears. The musician delights the audience as well the boy with his amazing ability to move his hands in perfect rhythm and produce the kind of sound only a practiced guitarist could do with that instrument.

To say the least the boy is overcome with delight and desire. He had never heard the guitar played in that way. It was extraordinary.

The angel asks the boy what he thinks about the vision. He answers like any young boy would, “Wow!”

Then the angel tells the mesmerized child that the amazing guitarist was him in a few years. With that the angel points to the small guitar in the boy’s hands and says, “But you must practice!”

The point is made. The boy’s attitude toward practice is changed because of the vision.  And, the vision came to him in solitude!