by Emily Conrad
I wouldn’t have thought of four people as a group just two months ago, but the last two months have rewritten my vocabulary. They’ve deepened this introvert’s appreciation for in-person connection and shifted my thoughts on time spent alone.
As much as I love time to myself, I’ve noticed that left to my own devices for too long, I get stuck. My world shrinks, and my creativity wanes. I ruminate on my failures. I focus too doggedly on pet projects and lose the vision and passion that inspired them in the first place.
There’s a difference, I’m learning, between solitude that is life-giving and solitude that’s destructive, and that’s true whether we’re in a season when we have a lot of time alone or only a moment stolen here and there.
For me, the pandemic has meant more time spent alone, and my time alone has sometimes taken some of the unhealthy turns I mentioned above. I decided more interaction was the solution.
That’s why I enjoyed the time spent in my in-laws’ driveway, chatting with our group of four in person (but from a distance).
As our conversation flowed, the light changed. Through the web of springtime branches in their lavish gardens, the pastel sky whispered an invitation to view the sunset.
But to go to the top of the rise to appreciate the sunset, I would need to break away from the group.
I stayed seated, favoring conversation. Connection. Less time alone was the answer, wasn’t it?
When we said our goodbyes and I had to leave my seat anyway, I gave in and set off up the road to see what could be seen, alone again.
From the top of the rise, sunset greeted me.
I opened my phone’s camera and found it pointed back at me. The orange light washed my face in warmth, but I’d come to see sunset, so I pointed the camera that direction and snapped a few shots.
At the time, I was disappointed at how the colors translated to my phone screen. Too dull, I thought. I decided to make the best of the lighting and take a couple of selfies. At least, if I couldn’t capture the sunset, I could capture the warm, peaceful glow it painted both literally and in emotion on my expression.
Though I reentered the shadows when I returned to the group, I think the most important parts of that warmth went back with me.
Not because I saw a sunset, but because, even I, who had thought myself maxed out on solitude, found that the problem wasn’t entirely the quantity. Part of the issue was the quality of my time alone, dictated by the direction of my focus.
The restrictions around the nation mean different things for different people. For some, closed schools and offices mean less time alone. But when we have less of something, isn’t it important to use what we have well?
And if we have an abundance of something, wouldn’t it be a shame to squander those riches on habits that tear down, rather than build up?
We all owe it to ourselves to use our solitude well.
Instead of getting stuck too deeply in our own minds, let’s look up. Let’s look out.
As the familiar passage says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.” Philippians 8:8, NET
In going to the top of the rise, my focus was fixed firmly on finding the lovely. I wasn’t looking in some religious, spiritual way, but creation speaks of the majesty of God, so I’m not surprised those moments have led me here, to thinking about how moments of solitude spent with Jesus, admiring His handiwork, are moments spent well.
If any of us fall into the trap of thinking ourselves truly alone, we’ve missed the presence of the Almighty God, and there is no better, no more restorative company to keep.
When we use solitude to pause, notice the good, and give thanks for it, we feed our souls. Let us dedicate our moments away from the group not to digging deeper into ourselves but to drawing closer to Jesus.
Even now, His beauty beckons us to the top of the rise—and to the details in the valleys, too.
Because we’re in the shadow of a pandemic, perhaps we’re uniquely primed to see the color of His presence with us. Perhaps we’ll appreciate His light on our faces that much more—if only we’ll use our moments of solitude, however abundant or scarce they are, to look for Him and His glory in this world, in His Word, in our lives.
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