“In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”
— Mark 1:35 (NRSV)
“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”
— Henri Nouwen (1932–1996)
Jesus sought his solitude. And we are to do the same. The difficulty comes in knowing when and how to balance solitude with comparative busyness for the Kingdom, for the more useful we have become in the Kingdom, the more we will be caught betwixt and between the great pressures of life.
These great pressures come not from containing the self, but from entertaining the needs of others. These great pressures are not from the self depicted relentlessly for itself; these great pressures, when the Kingdom is ours, are part and parcel of balancing God’s will for our lives.
God wants us serving, but also at peace.
God wants us to work hard, but also to find meaningful rest.
God, most of all, wants us prayerfully, and downtime is purposed for this very act.
We can be encouraged to know that there is no limit on how we may pray, just that we are to be cognisant of the Father, thankful for the Son’s resonating example to dwell privately with the Father, and at one with the Holy Spirit who indwells us, presently.
Practicing the Presence of God
What may be a mystery for us—practicing the Presence of God—was/is the heart and soul of the lives of the Christian mystics. Practicing the Presence of God is a worshipful activity that can only be accomplished in privacy and solitude. God may usher many things into our spirits via heartfelt contemplations; the seeking of the Divine.
This is a privilege for the Christian, to enter into God’s court and be graced by the heavenly realm. This is no fantasyland, but a uniquely Christian experience, as spiritual as it is authentic. This is not taking the emotional experience for granted, for the emotions are merely a confirmation of God’s blessing over the vessel; they are nothing to get carried away with, apart from simply enjoying the resonance of God’s beauty as it unfolds in our awe.
Attaining a Living Balance
Let us not lose sight for balance.
What good is the spiritual life—of accessing and practicing this Presence of God—if we are not able to live practically and serve God by serving and supporting others?
Again, we are filled by the Holy Spirit in order that the overflow of blessing we receive is deployed over other persons.
We rest in solitude in order that our relative busyness for the Kingdom—the external life, and the demands of people on us—would not wear us down. The Lord’s Sabbath rest is the gift of balance, secondarily, having already received the blessings of God’s assurance through practicing the Presence, initially.
We ought to make time for God through solitude, for God knows we need it in sustaining our energy levels, and in being appropriately directed by God’s wisdom, alone.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.