For the past two weeks, I have been an unashamed homebody. Even though I've spent time with friends, I have spent an irregular amount of time just being at home. In fact, I don't think I've spent this much time at home by myself since I was in eighth grade, and that was the summer I started going crazy from staying up until 7 am every morning.
Since that summer, I've rarely stayed at home for long periods of time. I usually have a job that keeps me out of the house all day or I have an internship where I'm not at home at all.
But this summer, I'm going to Poland. So I took these two weeks before I go just to rest, help my mom around the house, and mentally prepare before I leave on my first international adventure with the Lord. Sounds pretty restful, right?
While these past two weeks have been really lovely, they have also been pretty challenging as well as enlightening.
You see, I don't do well when I'm not around people. As an extrovert, I gain energy from social interactions. When I'm NOT around people for extended periods of time, I'm usually pretty lethargic, in that I don't want to do anything but read a good book or watch a movie.
While being home for two weeks sounded lovely theoretically, it also sounded sad and lonely to me. Being home isn't like college where I'm surrounded by people 24/7, an extrovert's dream. I have friends at home, but they have jobs. They can't hang out with me 24/7, which means that for a large portion of the day, I am by myself... well technically I'm with my dog, but I can't exactly have a conversation with him, can I?
So... being at home for two weeks has given me a lot of time in solitude.
At first, it felt very lonely and boring. In a pervious post, I talked about living life in the "mundane" but I think that what I was really grasping for was the word solitude. Because solitude daunts me more than normalcy does.
But after a lot of time to think, pray, and reflect, I've realized that solitude is such a needed part of the human experience. And these two weeks, while they may have been hard, have been such a gift.
You see, the Creator made human beings to be in relationship. In fact, we NEED relationships. But we also need solitude: we need time by ourselves to think and reflect and to pray.
In his book, Life Together, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
"Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to be rightly in fellowship."
I really like how Bonhoeffer shows the need for times of relationship and times of solitude, and how each affects the other.
After another year of college, surrounded by constant fellowship, the Lord knew that I needed time in solitude. This time in solitude has not only helped me appreciate and grow in my understanding of the purpose of fellowship, it's also given me ample time to do nothing, to think, pray, and spend time with the Lover of my soul.
Even Jesus experienced times of solitude, and he used them to rest, to communicate with his Father, and to prepare for his ministry.
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed."
He even tells the disciples to go and rest:
"And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat."
Solitude is a good thing.
But our culture can give us mixed messages about our need for solitude. American culture tells us that if we're not having fun with a lot of people, if we're not doing something exciting, if we're not productive, if we're not doing, doing, and doing, then we're not living life to its fullest potential.
Moreover, if we do experience times when we're by ourselves, culture tells us to fill that time with distractions: watching eight seasons of a show on Netflix, and then watching six seasons of another television show. Look at the amount of time the average American spends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites. I'm just as big of a culprit in these distractions as everyone else. But I'm asking you to think about how we fill our time.
Do we leave any time to breathe?
Now, I'm not saying that we should all take two weeks of solitude. Even my solitude time is broken up by my family coming home at night. But we should give more value to times of solitude, which will then give more value to times of fellowship. It's a delicate balance.
If there's one thing I've learned from being home for two weeks it's this: we need solitude, and by solitude I don't mean lots of time by yourself to watch Netflix, scroll Facebook, or pin on Pinterest. Because let's be honest, those are things we use to distract ourselves during times when we are alone. By solitude, I mean proverbial "white space" in our lives: time to just be, to just think, reflect, meditate, pray, and do nothing.
So I'm challenging you, like the Lord challenged me, take some time to be by yourself. Pray, think, reflect, journal, read a good book, or just do nothing. Leave some white space in your life. You need it, and it's good for the soul.
What my "white space" looks like today.
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