Ever binge Netflix and still feel exhausted as the credits roll? The promise of rest turns into a paradox. Free time doesn’t mean good rest. In our hyperconnected-yet-socially-distant world we can have time alone, and avoid solitude completely. This is dangerous, and makes Spiritual rest impossible.
Being alone is not solitude.
Many of us today are at risk for what Cal Newport calls “solitude deprivation”. He defines solitude deprivation as “a state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.” Being alone does not silence the voices which compete with Jesus’ voice. We talk a lot about our need for community, but we cannot ignore the need for solitude.
Solitude brings peace. Hurry brings violence.
Dallas Willard says if we are to grow spiritually, “we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.” Our souls are deeply connected to the “tyranny of the urgent” with our scrolling, posts, and messages. Pastor John Mark Comer puts it this way, “hurry does violence to our souls”. Have you ever thought about hurry this way? Our culture praises and promotes hurry as a sign of maturity. When we buy in, we trade the state of our souls for the appearance of the surface. The truth is we should care more about who we are becoming than what we are accomplishing. We forget that God wants to do the work in our souls.
We must choose solitude on the way of Jesus.
Jesus’ ministry was marked by a rhythm of solitude. Mark 1:35 tells us of Jesus’ habit to rise early and pray. He could have chosen lots of things to do while he was alone. Jesus made the choice to devote his time to prayer. This decision allowed the important to surface in his soul (intimacy with his Father), and allowed what was urgent to sink into oblivion (the expectations of the crowd). Solitude is a choice, with an outcome in mind. This is why solitude can never be permanent. As Jesus experienced the joy of His Father, he received wisdom as to the next best thing in the world of action. It’s as Martin Luther once quipped, “I have so many things to do today that I will spend an extra hour in prayer”.
Practices That Resist Hurry
- Daily Office – Practice and immerse yourself in the daily office of Scripture reading and prayer. Frequently done in the Morning and Evening.
- Crash Day – Clear your entire schedule for a simple day of Scripture reading and prayer. Examine and track your urges to “get to work” and take note of how your days are normally structured.
- Crash Week – Clear your entire schedule for a week (where possible) and replace those times with spiritual disciplines. During the week examine and keep track of your urges to work, produce, and create. Ask: are these flowing from values and beliefs that Jesus identifies as most important in my life?
- Digital Declutter – Look at Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism for how to make your phone and digital habits function as tools for you, and not drains of your best energy