The Power of Solitude
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2015 Apr 30
~~Remember how I said I was tired?
Well, Saturday proved to be my breaking point.
Last week was incredibly busy at work. I had multiple evenings where I was still sitting in my room, computer out, working at 9:00 pm. In addition, my oldest had multiple doctor’s appointments yet again (a broken arm…again). And, God has been opening doors for my writing and speaking (a VERY good problem).
But when you put it all together, it can become a recipe for overload.
When Saturday finally arrived, I knew there would be very little rest. OKC Memorial Marathon and packet pick-up, promise to take my son to the movie to meet a friend, pictures for my daughter’s Ice Cream Festival Princess pageant, family birthday party, and church. I felt as if the weekend was going to be at least as busy as the week had been.
I got up early (as I always do). I decided to skip the gym and simply go to the marathon expo to pick up my packet. When I arrived home, my oldest greeted me in the garage.
“Boy, did you get home at a bad time,” he said.
Not exactly what I wanted to hear.
I walked in the house to find water all over my kitchen floor. Apparently, someone had filled the garbage disposal without running it. Another someone came along and turned on the kitchen faucet and left it running for an unknown period of time, causing the water to back up in the dishwasher and overflow.
My dad and brother happened to be nearby, so there we all were trying to clean up the mess. I began to snap at everyone—kids, dad, brother—about everything.
“Pick that up.”
“Clean up your room.”
“What were you thinking?”
The words were flying out of my mouth, and I could sense the sting as they landed squarely on the hearts of those I love the most.
I didn’t like who I was in that moment.
The tears began to leak out of my eyes. Then the sobs began. There was no controlling the flood of emotions.
And that’s when my kids found me, curled in a fetal position in my closet floor, sobbing.
There was a time when my kids would not have been surprised to find me in this state, but it has been years since I had a complete melt down. I could see the confusion and concern on their faces.
With the sobs still coming uncontrollably, I began to cancel every plan I possibly could. I knew that I HAD to have some down time.
Eventually, I ended up sending all three kids away for the night. As I drove away from my brother’s house where I left the younger two to play with their cousins, the dam broke again.
“Lord,” I began between sobs, “something has to give. I can’t keep this up.”
And that’s when truth hit me. Over the past five years, my kids have spent minimal but consistent time with their dad. It might have only been 24 or 48 hours once or twice a month, but it gave me just enough time to enjoy some silence and solitude. I could stay in or go out. I could sleep or play. I could enjoy friends or enjoy isolation. I could do whatever I wanted without having to care for the needs of others.
However, my kids have not gone to their dad’s house in over two months, and I don’t anticipate a time in the near future where they will all be with their dad. That’s another story for another day, but suffice it to say that my kids are growing up and making decisions for themselves. I am proud of them. I stand beside them completely. I love them and love having them with me. I love that they are happy and content.
But I had NO IDEA the impact on my own emotional well-being. I had NO IDEA how much those short breaks meant to me. I had NO IDEA how much recharging I did in those short hours without children.
Widows, I salute you! To those whose children have no visitation with their other parent, I stand in awe of you! To those who have no family nearby to offer a helping hand, you amaze me!
I am entering a new era of single parenting, and I had no idea how difficult it would be. I have worked hard over the years to care for myself, to do little things to make myself feel good. Whether it is a monthly massage or a regular mani/pedi or making time to stay physically fit, I take time for my health and well-being. I use writing as an outlet. I get up early so I can enjoy an hour of quiet and read my Bible before the kids start clamoring for my attention.
But I have severely underestimated the importance of an extended period of solitude.
So now the challenge begins. If this new phase of my life involves no extended periods alone to recharge, I will absolutely have to find ways to get away by myself.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Mark 1:35-37
Even Jesus required solitary time alone. He used his time to pray. But, just like being a single parent, his time was often interrupted. I am a firm believer that the solitary time anchored him in the midst of his busy life. Just like a single parent, he always had people looking for him.
As I mentioned earlier, my routine involves getting up early and spending time with God. I get up before the kids for some alone time. I have noticed recently that on the rare occasions when my time gets interrupted, I can sense a real change in my spirit. I find myself on edge. I snap at people. My spirit is simply not at peace.
My dear friends, I can’t even start to explain the importance of solitary time, especially solitary time with God. If you aren’t making time alone with God a priority, I beg you to give it a try. I dare you to test him, to see if your outlook on life changes. He promises that if we seek him wholeheartedly, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:12-13). He promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He promises that when we wait on him, we will mount up with wings as eagles, that we will run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).
As for me, I will be looking for ways to be alone, to get away from the “crowds” (i.e., children) who are always seeking me out, following me. I will be looking to take better care of myself so that I can better care for my precious children who deserve an emotionally healthy mom.