In the past few months I’ve been wrestling with questions like, “What does it look like for me to give my entire life to God? How do I empty myself so that he can fill me up? What personality or character traits of mine are negative and need to be purged?”
All of these are incredibly deep, humongous questions that really challenge everything I’ve ever known about myself and what I want in my life. As I’ve begun attempting to answer these questions, one thing has become blatantly clear: the necessity of intentional solitude with God.
Not only is it vital for me to spend time in my own skin alone, doing the things that fill me up like writing, watching movies, going for runs, and sitting quietly with no distractions, but it is paramount that I spend time sitting with God silently, listening to what he may have to whisper.
If I really want to become my best self, it doesn’t start in loud, massive crowds where I’m overstimulated and can barely hear my own thoughts, but in the quiet moments where I can let my heart change and shift its focus to God.
In college, I was always being stimulated by classes, homework, going out with friends, trying to make good impressions on boys, preparing for life outside of college, and communicating with my family. While I certainly had a few moments where I could pause and just be by myself, in my own skin, whenever those moments occurred I always felt unnerved. I wasn’t used to being by myself or being by myself with God. It turns out that while I was very happy with my life and having a lot of fun, I was neglecting the Lord and not trying to figure out who I was.
Now that the silence of ordinary, “boring” daily life has settled, I’m finally able to see the holes that were covered up by my outgoing, extroverted activities. To be honest, thinking about retreating into solitude with the Lord to fix those terrifies me. I’m so scared that God is going to pluck and pinch me and leave me emptier than I was before.
As you can tell, my thoughts on this are a little paradoxical.
While it feels like God is going to strip me of myself and leave a lot of holes where negative things used to be, in reality he is going to rush into those places and fill them with his love.
It takes a leap of faith for us to trust God in the quiet, to trust him to mold us, sew up the rips, fill the cracks. When we’re used to all those crevices—or when we’ve been too busy to notice the crevices—it’s bewildering to give up control! But we have to give up hold on what we know for God’s knowledge and wisdom.
A couple days ago I sat down and got out my little orange flowered notebook that I take everywhere and wrote a list of things that I want to be stable parts of my life. My list included some items like:
- I want to spend time with friends once or twice a week
- I want to travel every once and a while, to places both new & old
- I want to go for a run at least once a week
- I want to be spontaneous but I don’t want to overexert myself
These little, pretty obvious, simple notations of what I want from my life really helped me to get down to the roots of who I am and what makes me different than other people. My list included both items like the ones above that were more worldly- and personality-focused as well as a few that were spiritually-focused, like:
- I want to invest in & be committed to a church
- I want to spend at least 20 minutes in complete silence with the Lord every week
- I want to love as often as possible
I think that writing down these sorts of dreams and ambitions not only helps us to understand ourselves, but it also begins to reorganize our priorities. After all, I can’t just start doing everything on my list immediately! It’s a give and take. I have to release and give up bad habits that I have in order to make time for what I really want. And that’s hard.
In the same way, solitude doesn’t come easy. Moments of quiet are nearly impossible to stumble upon. But I think what makes solitude so holy and so powerful is the fact that we have to seek it out and be intentional with God. It’s much easier to get down to business when you’re specifically aiming to do so. I can honestly say that the time I took to write down that list was probably some of the most productive time I’ve spent in years. And all it took me was 15-20 minutes! Imagine what it would be like if we made a list of all the things we want to eradicate from ourselves and sat down with God for that amount of time to discuss each one. We’d be changed people!
This week I’m going to do just that. Now I’m going to make a list of “Things I Don’t Want My Life to Be Like.” And then I’m going to sit down with God in solitude and actually start mending myself. Or more like, I’m going to sit down and let God start mending me. Of course, I’m not going to even attempt to go through everything on my list. That would be a little overzealous and completely exhausting, potentially even hurting my relationship with God if we move too quickly. But slowly and quietly, if I’m truly willing to change, I know the Holy Spirit will move in me and help me become the person I’m meant to be.
Will you join me?
Have you had any productive solitude with God? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about God? Please comment your thoughts below! It would give me great encouragement to hear your thoughts.