We are heading into the final stretch of the school year, and enduring the cold, wet end of an unusually difficult winter. I feel stretched thin, my drive, my energy, even some of my personality gone. Grammy and Grandpa are headed to Florida for a couple of weeks,so I will quietly pack a bag of books and head to their cabin on the lake to renew my heart and soul. Some years I am hard-pressed to take a full 24 hours, other years I get a weekend or more. I don't take a single hour of this time for granted.
It began a few years ago when I wasn't just stretched thin, I snapped. I prayed, begged, God for time alone with him. I craved long hours, uninterrupted by animals, phones, music, computer, television, or even other human beings to care for. Just God and I. Out of the blue, Grammy casually mentioned that I was welcome to use their house while they went away. I've been doing it ever since. Once, maybe twice a year, I pack study materials, and a few books I've had time to skim and want to read more thoroughly and head for the beauty and solitude of the lake.
You may think it's utterly impossible, but if your heart desires time alone with God, pray about it. He will answer --He longs for time with you, too! You can expect the tender comfort of His Spirit as you step away from your life and release the pent-up emotions, illumination as you spend time in the Word, and sweet times of prayer. You can also expect the silence to be deafening.
A few moments...
There are seasons of life when 5 minutes away seems impossible. Keep a book that nourishes your soul in the powder room and escape for a few minutes when life presses hard and close. I like Simplify Your Spiritual Life and Valley of Vision.
Plan to spend a chunk of time with God every day. It doesn't always happen, but if you don't plan it at all it will almost never happen. For many, many years I've spent the quiet hours of the afternoon when babies napped and children were busy with room time to pursue my relationship with the Lord.
Jonathan Edwards was the first person I read that spoke of unusual times of blessing and prayer during nature walks. There is an entirely different power to meditation and prayer when you are moving through Creation with the Creator. For a good chunk of the year, this is part of my morning routine. It's difficult to move back inside when the mornings become too dark and cold for an outdoor walk.
A morning (or afternoon)...
If your husband, a grandparent, or even a gracious friend is willing to take you children for several hours, head to a park with your Bible, a hymnbook (and perhaps and instrument), and a journal. You'll never regret these hours wandering or just sitting in Creation, enjoying the presence of your Creator and God. I've found a park owned by the Audobon society that is usually deserted but has benches placed in little nooks throughout the property to spot rare birds. It's a perfect spot for solitude because even if someone sees you they hike a wide berth around you so as not to disturb the birds.
A day or longer...
From house-sitting to a friend's timeshare on the beach, I've heard men and women give testimony of how God has provided for those who are desperately seeking time alone with Him. Make commitments ahead of time about how much and what kind of electronics you'll allow yourself. I choose none, creating music with my voice or an instrument if that is what I need, and using an old-fashioned concordance and notebook for my study. Silence is crucial to these seasons of solitude for me. Also consider fasting during this time if the Lord directs.
Remaining silent about your solitude...
When I first started taking these retreats, I expressed my joy and praise publicly that God had chosen to answer my cry for a time apart with Him. That was not a wise decision. While virtually everyone in my circles is over-busy and would love a vacation from their responsibilities, very few understood the desire for a spiritual retreat from the noise of life. They assumed I was napping, kayaking, quilting, shopping, or just enjoying some rare downtime with cable or a good book.
"I wouldn't even know what to do with myself alone for 24 hours!" was a common refrain. "You're so lucky! I would love a whole day to do whatever I wanted," was another. I wasn't alone...I had gone apart with God. I wasn't pursuing personal pleasure, either, although I would be hard pressed to think of sweeter times in my life. I didn't bother correcting the misunderstanding -- it simply wasn't worth it. In the future I simply slipped away with no one or only a close friend the wiser.
Until God fully and painfully reveals your own weakness to you, you cannot understand the need for extended periods of time -- or even daily times -- set apart with Him.
Start learning Him in the moments when you're overwhelmed. Close yourself in the powder room or your bedroom for just a few minutes of prayer rather than calling home or getting on the computer to escape the fray. Graduate to an hour or an afternoon spent in His presence, and experience first hand the cares and noise of life slip away. Pray, and ask Him to provide the day or weekend apart with Him, and you will know a peace that eludes most in this world.
Love and deep peace to you,