A quick check of the Cambridge Dictionary online for the definition of the word solitude shows that it is a word that means “the situation of being alone without other people.” Synonyms and related words according to the Cambridge Dictionary online are often negative in connotation and meaning, such as abandoned, castaway, deserted, lonesome, outsider, and recluse. However, one related word for solitude from Dictionary.com is withdrawal. I believe that solitude and withdrawal can have a bad reputation, however it can be a spiritual discipline when we focus on lessons we learn from our Savior Jesus.
According to Mark 1:35 (NIV), “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.” Sometimes in the past when I would read this Bible verse, I would feel condemnation. I am NOT a morning person. I struggle to get out of bed without hitting my snooze alarm many times. I will eat a quick breakfast bar and then I am often late heading out the door to work, typically with partially wet hair and no make-up. The thought of having to do morning devotions or else I will be a “bad Christian” makes me feel inferior and like I do not measure up to the ideal Christian standard. Typically I do my spiritual devotions at night, and that is what works for me. I believe that one key point gleamed from Mark 1:35 is that we need to take time to recharge amidst the craziness of our lives. That cannot be done around other people; instead it is a spiritual and emotional recharging that comes from spending time in solitude with our Heavenly Father like Jesus did.
In our modern day era and the world of smartphones, social media, and constant digital connections, we need time to unplug. One practical tip that I have used to try to silence the noise and distraction of everyday life is to simplify my e-mail. I decided upon a total number of e-mail lists that I wanted to unsubscribe from in order to accomplish this goal. Then I unsubscribed to a small number of e-mail mailing lists every day in order to make my goal more doable and less overwhelming. I honestly was feeling overwhelmed with keeping up with all the e-mail mailing lists and numerous devotional blogs that I subscribed to. Checking my e-mail had become a tedious and time-consuming chore. However, while it initially felt hard to unsubscribe from some mailing lists that I really liked (such as Kohls and Bath & Bodyworks), it was ultimately freeing and a time-saver in the end. That is one tip that worked for me, but in a diverse world we all have different practical steps that we may take to find a slice of solitude amidst the busyness of everyday life.
Another thing that I have done to unplug and free up my time is to drastically cut back on my time on Facebook. Sometimes previously I planned to wish a friend happy birthday, and I only wanted to spend a quick 5 minutes or so on Facebook. However, before I knew it, an hour or more would have gone by without me really paying attention, especially scrolling through family and friend’s news feeds. So I decided to get rid of my Facebook notifications re: e-mail updates of the birthdays of all my Facebook friends. Now I try to go on Facebook when I know it is a close friend or family member’s birthday, but I try not to sweat it if I miss wishing lots of acquaintance friends happy birthday on Facebook. This change has resulted in more free time for me to read Christian and leisure books, as well as have more rest and downtime in my day. The decision to cut back on Facebook was a personal decision that has helped with my time management, however I believe that Facebook has lots of positives like sharing prayer requests and edifying posts and pictures. Right now I have cut back on Facebook for a season, but I know that I am missing out on life posts of friends and family so there is a drawback. However, it seemed like perhaps God was leading me in this personal choice, and I had peace with that decision so that was important to me.
Solitude is a discipline that can be helpful for emotional and spiritual well-being through time to relax and recharge. It also can help us connect more with God. As we approach this holiday season, may we all find some time for solitude to recharge our souls, as well as have a refreshing time with the Lord.
Biography of Julie A. Smith:
Julie A. Smith has an academic background in Sociology and counseling. She loves to see people have their daily needs met physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In her free time she enjoys reading, hanging out with her adopted rescue kitty Colby, and spending time with family and friends.