How to do Solitude Well

This post originally appeared on the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership blog.

By Joel Cox ’16, assistant director of outdoor education

The idea of spending time alone, away from the everyday demands of today’s society, is one that originated back during the days of the early church. There are many accounts in the Gospels where Jesus took time away from the crowds to spend time alone with his Father.

Do you remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? Take some time and think about how tired he must have been. He tried to escape the crowds by taking a boat over to the other shore, but they got there before he landed. They brought him their sick and demon-possessed, and he healed them. Imagine the emotional and physical energy it would take to have over 5,000 people who all want you to do something for them. He kept giving of himself, his time and attention, and there were still more people who needed something from him. Even his disciples came to him with their problems saying, “Where are we going to get enough food to feed all these people?” And again, Jesus cared for everyone who was present and gave glory to God.

If you were Jesus, what would you do after all that work? You would probably want some “me time.” Sit down, watch a movie, talk to a good friend, “vent” a little about how everyone is just using you to fix their problems and they don’t realize you’re actually the savior of the world. But here’s what Jesus did after what must have been an exhausting day: “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:22–23).

Jesus not only dismissed all the people (“You can go now. You, too! It’s over for today. See you later!” x 5,000), but instead of napping or relaxing, he hiked up a mountain to pray. He spent time alone with God. After a very long day, what he needed most to recover was to spend time with his Father.

Right now, you may be sitting at home, for the fourth or tenth day in a row, tired of the news, or your kids or your roommates. Your schedule has been dramatically changed, your rhythms are thrown off, and everyone around you is a little on edge. You might feel a bit like Jesus felt after caring for so many people. I encourage you to follow the example of our Savior. God knows what we need, and solitude and silence is a way to receive his encouragement and guidance.

La Vida has had 50 years of practice in teaching students the gift of being still and listening to what God has to tell us. So, whether you’re a parent or someone stuck with a whole house to themselves, below are a few suggestions of how to benefit from this time of “solo”:

And here are a few more opportunities from the La Vida staff manual that our students do on “solo”:

  1. Write a letter to yourself a year from now. (In this case, write a letter to yourself post-coronavirus.)
  2. Write a letter to someone who you’ve needed to talk to.
  3. Observe a one-foot square of Earth and analyze God’s design for life in that piece of creation.
  4. Write down a one- and five-year goal and how to achieve them.
  5. Write in your journal about the difference between solitude and loneliness.