'Come Away': The Practice of Seclusion
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2007 6 Jun
“And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’” -- Mark 6:31 (NASB)
One day years ago while I was listening to a book on tape in my car, the cassette’s thin tape caught on a tiny wheel inside the machine and began playing the same few sentences over and over again as it looped around. Try as I might, I couldn’t eject the tape from the player. Neither could I turn the player off, no matter how many times I pushed the “on/off” button. I was trapped inside a car filled with incessant chatter, and I had at least one more hour of driving to go before I reached my destination.
My pulse increased and my concentration decreased as I began to panic, trying in vain to override the tape by switching the player over to the “radio” setting. Finally, in desperation, I turned the volume down to its lowest level. Yet I couldn’t escape the tape’s muffled droning in the background while I drove. A wave of relief washed over me when, at last, I reached a parking lot and was able to shut off the tape by turning off the car.
Do the tapes that play in your life cause you stress sometimes? Maybe it’s the buzz of technology that clamors for your attention every waking moment – your cell phone, e-mail, fax machine, and pager. Perhaps it’s the static of people who place constant demands on you – young children, difficult co-workers, ailing parents, or a friend in a crisis. Do you wish you could turn off your schedule, only to find that it keeps you looping around in a frenzy of activity?
If so, God invites you to come away with Him to secluded place. There, in the embrace of solitude and silence, you can turn off the world’s voices and tune into the voice of the One who made you. You’ll never hear all He’s whispering in your ears until you meet Him in seclusion.
No one who has ever walked the Earth had more important work to do than Jesus. He was confronted with crowds, demands, noise, and interruptions nearly everywhere He went, and He could easily have been constantly busy. Yet He made seclusion a priority: “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there,” (Mark 1:35, NASB). After He had spent time away in quiet, Jesus returned to His work renewed.
God will recharge your batteries, too, if you make seclusion a daily habit. Here’s how you can do so:
· Give yourself permission to enjoy a daily time of seclusion. Realize that seclusion is a vital habit to have in order to gain the perspective, clarity, and peace God wants for you. Recognize that God designed life’s natural rhythms to include times of aloneness as well as relationships, and times of silence as well as sound. Don’t feel guilty about making time for seclusion. Don’t worry that a habit of seclusion will impair your relationships or make it harder for you to get things done. Trust that, in your time of seclusion, God will strengthen you to deal more effectively with every person and situation in your life.
· Choose a specific time and place for seclusion. Realize that if you don’t schedule a daily appointment for seclusion, the shouts of urgent tasks will overpower the whispers of important ones. Choose a time of day that works best for you, such after you first wake up in the morning, during your midday lunch break, or in the evening before going to bed. Plan to spend a set amount of time – even if only a few minutes – in solitude and silence. Go to a regular place for your solitude: a corner of your bedroom with a cozy chair, your backyard, a break room, or even your car. Whenever you can manage a longer time of seclusion (such as on a weekend or during a vacation), schedule it and go to a special place (such as a park or retreat center) for it.
· Break away from distractions. Don’t compromise your seclusion by carrying your cell phone with you, answering the doorbell if it rings, or sneaking a peek at your “to-do” list or a newspaper. Make a conscious effort to break away from all distractions. Ask God to help you break free of your daily pressures and quiet your spirit.
· Bring vital supplies. Take a copy of the Bible, a notebook, and a pen with you. Have a particular Scripture passage in mind to read and meditate on during your time of seclusion. As you pray about it and other topics, ask God to speak to you, and write down the insights you receive.
· Be honest. If people ask where you’re going when you break away for seclusion, don’t be ashamed to tell them the truth. Simply say you need some time to think and pray about things. They will likely respect your decision.
· Be patient. Expect it to take at least a few moments for echoes of the world’s pressures and noise to stop reverberating in your mind. Relax and sit still. Listen to the silence around you. Anticipate hearing God’s voice speaking to you when the time is right.
· Do it when you need it. Whenever you’re facing a particularly stressful situation and feel the need for some time in seclusion, make time for it however you can. Just excuse yourself and pull away so you can return in greater strength later. Make use of the downtime stuffed into the pockets of your day by turning it into extra seclusion time. For example, while you’re sitting in a line of minivans waiting to pick your kids up from school, turn off the radio and sit alone in silence to clear your mind, then pray.
· Reengage with enthusiasm. After withdrawing for your times of seclusion, be enthusiastic as you reengage with people and activities. Celebrate your newfound peace, strength, and clarity. Thank God for the gifts He has given you during the times you’ve accepted His invitation to “come away” with Him.