When you hear the word solitude, what do you think of? What do you envision?
Does it conjure up feeling of peace, comfort, and connection? Or does the idea of being alone (on purpose) make you feel anxious, uncomfortable, and downright fearful?
I want to continue to explore this quote from author Richard Foster:
In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness” he will rest satisfied.
It such a good quote, and encapsulates so much for us to consider.
It sounds like he is describing life today — in the 21st Century. And yet, Foster first penned these words back in 1978, over 35 years ago.
These are pillars of our contemporary society.
And they paint the picture that is today’s typical college and university campus.
Today’s student generation is more connected, and places greater priority on community and relationships than any generation to come before it.
You are with people — whether physically or virtually — at nearly all times.
In fact, it would seem that many of you struggle to be alone. You struggle to see any value in being alone (for any period of time). And therefore you avoid being alone at all costs.
So you surround yourself with crowds of all kinds — friends, study groups, texting, calling, and connecting online — such that it fills up every free and waking moment.
You feel compelled to be connected. All the time.
But what if I told you that in order to be the best you in crowds, in community, that it requires (yes, requires) that you spend chunks of time alone — in solitude.
Consider these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…
Let him (or her) who cannot be alone beware of community.
What is Bonhoeffer getting at?
And what’s so important about being alone? Hasn’t God created us as relational beings — to be in relationship with him and with others?
We have been created for relationship — with both God and others.
But when we constantly surround our self with others, we live little to no room to cultivate our relationships with God.
And if we’re not cultivating our relationship with God — if we’re not taking time and energy to intentionally pursue and grow in that relationship — then who we are in crowds, when we’re with other people, is not the Christ-filled, Christ-centered us that we are meant to be.
Not only that, but if we’re not investing in our relationship with Jesus, then we’re not allowing him to shape us — the way we think, the way we act, and what we prioritize in life.
When we surround ourselves with crowds only, to the exclusion of God, then it is the crowd that will shape how we think, and how we act, and what we prioritize in life.
That’s not good for us — and that’s not good for the communities and relationships that we are a part of.
So this thing called solitude — this choice to intentionally withdraw from crowds (for chunks of time — and for the sake of better connecting with God) is what has the potential to make us the kind of people who can be healthy and whole — both in crowds and alone.
So… when’s the last time you were alone — on purpose?