My wife, Raina, and I have recently got hooked on a tv show called ALONE.
Here is the concept: 10 people are dropped off throughout the artic; season eight is on Chilko Lake in British Columbia, Canada. They have a chance to win half a million-dollar prize, and their only goal is to survive longer than their competitors. They must survive the rough terrain and harsh weather conditions, fight hunger, and forage for berries and edible plants, all while in the most concentrated area of grizzly bears.
The cast are experts in outdoor living—most of them make their living taking people on excursions or teaching primitive skills in some way. They know what they are doing. They have trained, prepared, studied, and put on extra pounds for this show. It’s like the Great Outdoor Olympics.
What is so surprising to me every season is that it isn’t the weather that gets to most of them, it isn’t the lack of food (although sometimes it is), and it isn’t the fact they are no longer at the top of the food chain.
What gets to them is the fact that they are actually alone.
Now, the idea of being out there is scary if you are anything like me, a tall, extroverted musician with zero primitive skills. The thought of building a shelter, having to hunt for my food or starve, or even going toe to toe with a grizzly would ensure that I would tap out within the first fifteen minutes.
But being alone petrifies people.
It is a fear that drives us to have constant noise, constant busyness, and constant swiping on a silly little screen to avoid at all costs being with our thoughts.
We plan our weeks in a way that tries to minimize our aloneness – filling our schedules to the brim, ensuring we always have lunch plans, and always having people over because “we are not made to do life alone.” And while that statement may be true, I have found myself challenged by the practice of quieting my soul, simplifying my life, and spending time in silence and solitude.
Christians have done this practice for years. It’s a practice we can see Jesus do throughout his ministry, and if the Savior of the world needed silence and solitude, how much more do we need to create space to do the same?
My favorite time Jesus withdraws is in Mark chapter 1.
Jesus spends a day teaching, healing, and casting out demons (real hard work), and he wakes up early the following day, while it is still dark, to go off to a solitary place to pray. I would have woken up late, had a mid-morning cup of coffee with the fam, and checked my favorite news app for anything I may have missed.
But Jesus does the opposite. Why? To slow down, refocus, and be refreshed by His Father.
There is power seen in the consistency of withdrawing to a quiet, solitary place not just to recharge but recenter and refocus.
Now, I want to be clear, being in isolation isn’t the same as silence and solitude.
Solitude = Engagement
Isolation = Escape
Richard Foster wrote one of my favorite books on spiritual disciplines (GOOD NEWS: it’s available in our pathways center). He writes, “Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place.” It is a positioning we intentionally make when we create space to be alone that gives us a moment to slow down and “allows our souls to catch up with our bodies” (John Mark Comer). As I have begun to do this, I have found myself less hurried and able to be present with family, friends, and co-workers.
Through this practice, the Holy Spirit has nourished my soul. I am beginning to see and respond to where God is working in my life and the lives of the people around me.
Maybe you cannot find the time, though I hardly believe that is the case. Still, you can always take advantage of the small silence and solitude you get throughout your day. It could be your commute to work, taking the first few sips of morning coffee, having an extra moment before bed, or turning your phone off for a few hours and seeing how God uses it.
On ALONE, each contestant that lasts a significant amount of time has some perspective shift or change. They value family more, become more grateful, or realize the good things in their lives. Now imagine how much more transformation could take place with the Holy Spirit at work within us through the practice of silence and solitude. So find some time to try it.
You may find enjoyment in the silencing of your soul.
And the good news is there are no grizzly bears in Southwest Missouri.