An ancient practice remedies busy life
May 17, 2022
Movie theaters and concert venues have reopened, and my social life has become colorful again. After experiencing pandemic social distancing, I can mingle in a crowd and exchange appreciative comments and nods. As social animals, we are driven to connect and congregate. Yet the Christian faith also makes a strong case for the spiritual practice of solitude: If you want to find your life, you need to lose it by stepping back from the crowd, by doing less and by doing with less.
The church has scheduled an annual observance of solitude for us called the season of Lent. What can the beginning of Lent tell us about the benefits of solitude that we might have forgotten after having an unwelcomed season of COVID-19 solitude?
The Lenten season began in the late fourth century when Christians were no longer persecuted for their faith. They no longer had to meet in secret. And they no longer had to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit to join the church. In short, most people were Christians in name only. So, a small group resolved to do something about the lax attitude they witnessed. They sold their possessions and gave to the poor. They lived in the wilderness in the style of John the Baptist: eating what the land offered and spending much time in prayer. Above all, they practiced silence, solitude and simplicity.
Soon these communities of loners made headlines in the ancient world. Bishops made the journey to see these solitary wise ones for themselves. What they discovered was people who had little in terms of physical comforts, yet they had what traditional Christians back home lacked: Their faces were radiant. Upon their return to their parishes, bishops scheduled a season prior to Easter where Christians were to live like those desert folk.
My social life has become colorful again, but I cannot forget the important need for practicing solitude. We need this holy time — and we need not wait for Lent to have it. Start by making intentional time for solitude. Turn off all electronic devices for half a day. Set aside time when you make phone calls and answer emails, rather than sprinkling them throughout the day. Now that you have made the time, try sitting and not doing any other activity except becoming more aware of Christ alive in you.
Practicing solitude is not about being alone, but about being more present to God. The church had good reason for implementing the practice of solitude. By it, we once again recover a sense of joy and peace.
The Rev. Dr. Annemarie S. Kidder; Pastor of Pennfield Presbyterian Church, Battle Creek, Michigan; Author of several books on spiritual practices, including “The Power of Solitude: Discovering Your True Self in a World of Nonsense and Noise.”
Today’s Focus: Power of solitude
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Communications Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Jonathan and Emily Seitz, Mission Co-workers serving in Taiwan, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Dear Lord, sustain us as we seek to sustain each other in the beauty of your kingdom, with the bounty of your earth, amid the needs of your cities and through the fellowship of neighbors working together. Amen.