“When there is no time to do it, that’s when you most need to unclutter the calendar and go apart to pray. When the gridlock in your schedule relentlessly forbids it is the time you most need to retreat. That is when your heart beats against the prison walls of your enslavement and says, ‘Yes, Lord, I want to spend time with you.’”
—Emilie Griffin, Wilderness Time
“Over the years I have learned that my greatest need as a human being is to experience God’s unconditional love and presence beyond all that I do for him. I need to hear a voice that is not my own speaking those things that I most need to hear. In the regular practice of solitude, God’s unconditional love and presence become the bedrock of my being, the unshakable foundation of my true identity and calling.”
—Ruth Haley Barton, “Leading through Solitude,” Everyday Matters Bible for Women
A few days ago I was getting ready for bed quite late at night, washing my face and brushing my teeth, when my heart felt a strong tug. “Maggie, we need to talk,” a voice said to me clearly and firmly. “Don’t go to bed yet. Meet me on your bedroom floor.” I was filled with an urgency I’ve never felt before, realizing that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me.
When I walked into my room, my knees collapsed and my body fell smoothly into a prostrate position on the rough carpeting. Nose pressed to the ground, my arms limp in front of me, my breath bouncing up and warming my forehead, I closed my eyes and imagined Jesus Christ himself standing in front of me. My heart softened. “I’m here.”
Obeying the Call
Solitude is more than just a pleasant daydream of an idea. Solitude requires obedience, dedicated planning, and, in occasions like mine, immediate acknowledgment. Especially after the experience I just shared, I’m certain that there are times that God commands each of us to commune with him one-on-one.
The truth is, when I heard God’s voice in my heart, I wasn’t surprised. I knew there were things I had been avoiding for days, months, and, to be honest, years. I had hung curtains around the areas that I wanted to hide from God, parts of my life that I didn’t want him to see or touch. I was so stubborn in my desire for distance from God that on the night he commanded me to be still in his presence, I could practically feel the grit and crust that had grown and obstructed my heart. It was as though a dam had broken and all the things I tried to hide were peeking around the edges of the curtain and spilling out. The ooze was undeniable.
In moments like those, don’t be surprised if God pushes to your knees and forces you to look at him. Being in God’s presence is a sort-of spring cleaning for our hearts. We can’t hide from him; we must face the realities of our sinfulness and of our inadequacy.
The Beauty in Being Alone with God
Luckily, though, what also comes with this one-on-one time is God’s glorious grace, mercy, and unconditional love.
After I talked through all my crusty sins and tore down the curtains, I felt as though I were breathing for the first time. I felt so light, so comfortable. God was there and he wasn’t angry at me! I imagined Jesus kneeling down in front of me and comfortingly putting his hand on my shoulder. My heart was soft, clean, and had a new core; the Rock firmly regained His throne again.
When I read Ruth Haley Barton’s musings on solitude, my experience on the bedroom floor was immediately brought to mind. “In the regular practice of solitude, God’s unconditional love and presence become the bedrock of my being, the unshakable foundation of my true identity and calling.” It’s true! I felt as though I were a new woman, my foundation had been turned upside down and now I felt a healing hand on my back guiding me forward instead of my own grimy, prideful hands desperate for control over my own life. I could feel God’s calming voice saying, “I love you so much. I know the path you are on and I will be with you for every step. You can do anything as long as you trust and follow me. So please, never stop listening to me.”
Making Time for Solitude
While it is important to go to church and hear God’s words from the pastor’s lips, it is just as important to schedule personal time with the Lord. In the alone time, we are allowing God to speak to us personally and intimately. Just like he wants us to know him, he wants to know us. And the more time we spend with God, the closer we are to him, allowing us to hear his voice more clearly when we’re not in solitude.
Have you ever been called by the Holy Spirit to solitude? Have you pursued alone time with the Lord? What happened? If you feel comfortable, please share your own musings on solitude! I’d love to hear.