“I did not know if I were the first or the last man standing.”
Henry David Thoreau, in his masterful work Walden, wrote, “I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
Recently I enjoyed the pleasure of being the only one on a beach in the Baja peninsula in Mexico. The particular beach I was on was easily three big city blocks wide and at least four miles long. And as far as I could see, there were no other persons in sight.
With nothing but sand and sea to acknowledge me I was given this particular moment to have the entire world to myself. I was the wind. I was the sun. I was free.
Some people cannot handle the solitude or aloneness. They are so use to the distraction of their hurried life that stopping or shutting down like this – even for just a brief moment – cripples them and leaves unsure of what to do.
For me, standing alone like that, gave me an overwhelming sense of freedom and liberation. I could sing, dance, learn a new language, or burp and no one would be the wiser but me.
To borrow from Thoreau, “I did not know if I were the first or the last man standing.” At that moment it didn’t matter. I was a giant for once in a world that always seemed to be bigger than me. And so I stood there, taking it all in.
Lent is a time of being alone in your self without anyone judging you, criticizing you, or giving you something to take your mind off of… you. It’s a time to find your inner voice, a time to find your greatness and learn how to live it out in the great mystery of the world.
We all must find time to be alone, truly alone, in order to hear God. You might not get a chance to have an entire beach to yourself or to walk alone along the shoreline of Walden Pond, but there are plenty of ways to find someplace special to be with yourself without the distractions of others to get in your way. I suggest shutting down your phone, turning off the television or radio, and then sit in your favorite chair and listen to the small noises in your home and neighborhood where God whispers to you loudly.
It might sound intimidating at first, but remember that out in that wilderness, Jesus was not truly alone. There were animals, devils, and of course some angels waiting on him (Mark 1:12-13). And on the beach I had a small group of seagulls who, like me, enjoyed the silence as we all looked out to sea. Like Jesus I knew I was not truly alone.
In the heat of blinding sun, the voracity of the wind that pushed me backwards, and in the roaring ocean that pounded the shoreline with rhythmic punches, I could feel God surrounding me. And I could hear God screaming, “Stop moving. Sit here. Be still.” I did. And the heavens began to tell of God's glory.
First I listened.
Then I spoke.
Then I sang.
Then I prayed.
And sang some more.
Prayer: God, thank you for reminding me that you are always present in my life. Help me to find some quiet moments throughout the day where I can spend some time with you. And in those moments of solitude, teach me to see myself, and to be myself, without shame or embarrassment or guilt. Amen.