Slow Solitude

Not being in a hurried rush means, once slowed, we can become present to all around us. People and Someone we weren’t seeing as we went by in a blur with our daily to-dos. Or thrown off by our phone notifications. Or an increase in our ancy emotions to impulsively be distracted constantly.

What is it we have incorrectly desired to be distracted from?

Solitude.

It is a very misunderstood virtue.

When fully engaged in a healthy manner, solitude is a place the soul draws from to replenish, not to go into despair. That would be a state of loneliness, as Henri Nouwen rightly distinguished.

Instead solitude is a placed of strength when engaged properly. We can look no further than Jesus in seeing the importance of solitude.

John Mark Comer in his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry helps reframe the many references of Jesus retreating into a wilderness, pulling back from the crowds, entering into days of prayer, as not states of entering into weakness but instead entering into places of strength.

Solitude is a place of strength:

“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” because it was there and only there, that Jesus was at the height of his spiritual powers. It was only after a month and a half of prayer and fasting in the quite place that he had the capacity to take on the devil himself and walk away unscathed. (P. 125)

The issue is the magnification in our modern world of constant distraction. But here is Jesus, 2,000 years ago and free of a cell phone and breaking news red banners, in need of drawing into a state of solitude on numerous occasions. He needed to draw away from the noise of that era so He could hear from His Father right then and there.

C.S. Lewis fictionalized in a very true metaphor in his book The Screwtape Letters, that the devil’s realm is a ‘Kingdom of Noise.’ And that in fact, the demons and the devil together say that ‘We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.’

It’s no surprise that noise and distraction and a hurried life leaves all of us crippled in our soul. Drained of energy, even the most hustle driven among us, we know we must retreat into solitude and rest now and then. Otherwise all the noise out there just keeps distracting.

But the moment of solitude and retreat into the wilderness, be it from a rushed life, too many kid’s practices, several board meetings, church committees, and recreation league softball, whatever those appointments were, the moment you can stand still for 10 minutes and retreat into the present moment, is the moment you find a slow stillness that nourishes.

What’s at stake is missing the present. And Comer emphasizes that all our “hurried digital distraction is robbing us of the ability to be present.” (P 121)

Because the amazing flipped on it’s head reality about God’s way of things, is that through solitude and stillness, we become more present to God, other people, all that is good, beautiful, and true in our world, even present to our own souls. (P 121).

What would you do with an increase in solitude? Would you welcome it or find yourself cascading into an unhealthy loneliness? In solitude, we are guaranteed to find Jesus there, in no rush and filled with all the patience in the world there ever could be.

 

Beautiful Days

I only want to see the most beautiful of days,
The childhood days of gifting and caring,
Releasing an inner expression of creativity within me
As a gift in every interaction with every Imago Dei.

Everything was suppressed within predictable
False promises, of which, now, leave a rot.
Where the decay takes its strongest grip
Is exactly where freedom once reigned supreme.

These were days with no measurable form,
A time with no time and no reason for categorization,
For the moments within each glowing inspiration
Sustained me with continuous arrivals of affirmations.

I only want to see the most beautiful of days.
They are no longer days, they never were.
They are the clearest embraces of encouragement
Whispering softly to become childlike again.

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Convenient Abandonment

I knew exactly what to do when my band came to an unexpected end while I was halfway through my undergraduate degree:

Triple down on getting a degree so you can start a career, so you can join the middle to upper-middle class the rest of your life, so you can do the responsible thing since you are already this far along.

No doubt back then. No more should I or shouldn’t I. It became clear as the view through the 28th floor office tower windows I could now picture myself looking through.20150313_181342

I wish it were as straightforward as that. But it wasn’t.

There are opposite forces at play in every interaction we have.

It’s very true when you apply this to inaction. Wise people constantly point out that lurking inside of inaction is, oddly enough, action. At the least a choice.

No action at all, playing it safe, actually leads to an opposite force’s favorite opportunity of all. The opportunity to seduce us into surrender through the distraction of a noble pursuit.

The moment we lay our guard down or simply stop acting we are not merely at rest. Resting is action and a signal to the opposite force to fill the vacuum with something else others will approve of.

And this opposite force at play strikes with great joy. You can hear the joy in it’s tone:

You want to give up on what you’ve always wanted because of a minor hiccup? That would be sad. Oh, but here, look over here! I found a noble distraction for you. Get a degree (which you would get regardless of anything you do on the side), but certainly don’t spend energy on a band again.

Twelve years later and I saw a 28th floor view once. I also have a clear, up front view of someone who swapped out their deeply ingrained identity for convenient pursuits.

We must pay attention to what makes our hearts leap and do more of it. We must value who we are at all times in order to do what we are. Otherwise, convenient fall back pursuits will fill in the void if we choose to abandon ourselves.

Narcissistic Love

Love overwhelmed me. And I found myself crying in my car in the church parking lot.

Like crying crying. Not whimpering. Not onion chopping crying. But pent up emotions and trials and bewilderment and disbelief crying.

It was the culmination of all the events of my past year packaged into one heavy question I asked out loud in tears:

‘God, am I narcissistic to believe for one second every seemingly unrelated, earth-rattling event which occurred in my life over the past year happened because You love me? Can all these debilitating events be in rhythm with the incredibly joyful events, married to each other in order to finally capture not just my attention but my heart?’

It broke me. And I think that is the point.

I was begging the question in the most relational way possible as the tears flowed. How could God be utilizing the actions of others to breakthrough to me? It struck a nerve because I was trying to convince myself God shouldn’t be including other people and their circumstances just to usher me deeper into His embrace.

God loves me? When the fact manifested itself in multiple wake up calls, love dissolved into the innermost parts of my soul. And the fight was on as I was saying out loud in the car ‘God loves me? How narcissistic of me! All these things happening to me, involving others, crashing me down or lifting me up, all of it can’t be happening just to refine me so I fully trust God! That’s so self centered.’

I was fighting with a strong either/or. Either all this is randomness occurring while I attempt to piece my life together. Or it’s all happening because God loves me so much. I was finally breaking down with the ramifications of the latter. Yes. It could all be happening to draw me close to Him. Which means God loves me. Always has.

And it really left me in a heaping mess when I realized this is not a narcissistic love. He loves you too. He actually does. If you lean in a bit to Him, you’ll notice the Light cutting through the darkness so it can be with you.

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Sealed Sinking Box

Take your regrets and stuff them in a box.
Seal it good and tight. Real tight.
Then cast it off into the water
and let it sink down as fast as it can.

But make sure it was sealed.
The water does not want them, nor anyone else.
And there is no reason for you to dive back in
And attempt to pry it open. Just let it sink.

Not even the water wants them,
But will gladly hide them for you.
Then be washed clean in these waters,
Soaked through and through.

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