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jesse-bowser-258699.jpgI sat in the dark movie theater all alone.  The 10 pm showing had not yet begun.  My three young children were safely tucked into bed with their father in charge of their care.  Being a stay-at-home mom with two in diapers and one in school left me few minutes in the day when someone wasn’t needing something from me.  A drink.  A diaper change.  Help with homework.  Something.  All.  The.  Time.  So when the movie began and I looked around to see – absolutely no one – I breathed a sigh of relief, propped my feet on the seat back in front of me and reached for my large buttered popcorn and diet coke.  

I don’t remember which movie I saw but I know I have never enjoyed a movie more.  Two whole hours.  By myself.  All alone.  With nothing to do but . . . breathe.  I returned home after midnight not even minding that in a few short hours I would be up for a middle of the night feeding.  The time “off duty” had left me refreshed and feeling as if I had been on a small but satisfying mini vacation.

Those who know me see me as a party girl.  (I’ve been known to celebrate random holidays from far off places just to have an excuse to party!)  I love people.  I love my friends.  And I love a good time.  I also love (and need) downtime to recharge and renew.  Alone time to think, pray and plan.  Both are necessary to my sense of balance and well being.

I love my friends.  And I love a good time.  I also love (and need) downtime to recharge and renew.

As I study the life of Jesus I find he followed a pattern of alone and together times.  Multiple instances in the gospels record his choice to on occasion go solo.  Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Even Jesus Himself felt the need of retreating from the masses to commune with the Father alone.

Matthew 14:33 gives us a clear picture of this pattern.  “After Jesus had dismissed the crowds, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  When evening came, he was (still) there – alone.

There is a distinct flavor to our time alone with God which bears its own mark of intimacy.  When making important decisions and life choices it is good to seek counsel from friends and godly advisers but ultimately the most definitive direction should come from God who knows all, sees all and always has out best purpose in mind.

We live in such a noisy and distracting world that we often have to consciously create a place of calm and quiet in order to even hear the voice of the Lord.  We have to choose to be still.  And in our action packed culture being still is not necessarily encouraged or admired.  However, it is often in the quiet and calm that we most closely connect to Our God.

We have to choose to be still.

For much of my life we lived in a church parsonage which sat right next to the church my dad pastored.  It was his habit to go next door to the church when he wanted to be alone with God and on more than one occasion I remember him leaving after breakfast and not returning until the end of the day.  Once when my mother felt particularly burdened about some needs within our congregation she went to the church and spent the entire night there in prayer.  For them this was the equivalent of Jesus’ mountainside experience.

Many people feel closer to God in the beauty of nature.  Besides retreating to the mountainside, Jesus seemed to enjoy being near a lake.  (Mark 2:13 “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.”)  When overcome by grief upon hearing his beloved John the Baptist had been beheaded, Jesus withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place (Matt. 14:13).

Jesus…followed a pattern of alone and together times.

I love praying near the lake as well.  We have a relaxing place we call the “Haas Hideaway” which sits on one of our beautiful Arkansas lakes.  I love entertaining friends and family there but I also love the chance to head to the lake house a day before everyone else arrives.  I call this my “Jesus time” and have had some wonderfully intimate encounters with the Lord there.

If you are a hiker or prayer walker you can also follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  John 7:10 records that “After his brother had gone up to the feast, then Jesus also went up, not publicly but in private.”  This means that Jesus would have walked about 90 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, about a 5 day walk, by himself.  Five days of filling up to be able to give more out.  It’s a pattern worth examining and following.

I have a dear friend who shared with me that she has just recently learned to enjoy alone time.  Always one to surround herself with people and never wanting anyone to be left out, her gatherings could easily mushroom from a mixer for a few to a multitude in a short time. “The more the merrier” seemed to be her motto for life.  But as she spoke about the unexpected joys of solitude I detected both surprise and contentment in her voice.  She has learned time alone can be both productive and profitable.  She has leaned, in essence, the wisdom of Psalm 46:10, to “Be still and know that I am God.”

Silence and solitude.  Two elements that can be as refreshing in our lives as a cool dip in a clear stream.  I have a couple of quotes to share with you:

“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”  — William Penn

“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressure, which is the incubator of the spirit.”  — Marya Mannes

I wish you peace.  I wish you rest.  And in whatever setting speaks to your soul, I wish you time to be alone.