So What Do You Do Out There All Day Alone?
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,
with all your strength, and with all your mind . . .” Luke 10: 27(CEV)
“Why not? I thought this is what it is all about. I have this list. I told some of the people I would. You are not making any sense!”
I was on my second circuit around the lake arguing with God. This was the first day of an extended period of solitude at the hermitage and things had started off with a big fight.
I had made arrangements for my family, shared my plans with friends and clients, packed my provisions, gathered up my good intentions, and stepped into solitude with considerable self importance.
God went right to work on me. On the first day I ran into a wall. That was why I had thrown my journal on the floor and stomped off to the pasture. That was why I was walking around the lake pleading and arguing with the Holy One.
The word of the Lord that had come unto me was this:
Thou shalt not pray for other people or projects or events while here. Thou shalt not worry and fret about them or their futures. Thou shalt not dwell on the past.
Thou shalt pray on my terms. Any intercession will be at my invitation, not your over-functioning, good intended, works righteous, anxiety ridden, guilty, controlling ego.
Thou shalt partner with me in bringing in my kingdom not by being available to the world, but by being available to me. Thou shalt get the first commandment well established in thy heart before thou shalt be ready for the second.
So it had come to this. My will versus God’s will.
I had planned to pray for others and for the needs of the world, while I was at the hermitage. God’s word to me shook my very foundations. Huh? What am I going to do out here then? This is a question people often ask me when I tell them I take a day a week for solitude.
It has taken me years to untangle myself from relationships and assuming too much responsibility for others’ well being. The notion that just being with God without doing anything in particular is foreign to many. It may take us a while to learn how to simply be present to God and enjoy our relationship with the Source of All Being.
We learn to detach ourselves from the things of creation in order to more fully attach ourselves to the Creator, in whom we rediscover the creation. In this new context my relationship to the world is transformed. Where my attachment to the creation was enmeshed, codependent, grasping, urgent, and possessive, it becomes freer, less sticky, as I allow others to be as they are. No longer do I demand things of people or of the world. No longer do I attempt to control or manipulate them, because my deepest needs are being met my God.
So what does one “do out there all day long?” All kinds of things: read, listen, watch, pray, walk, rest, create. . . .as one slowly is weaned from “doing” itself. One gives up the addiction to producing, efficiency, and ego enhancing, controlling behaviors in favor of the freedom of being, to joining with the One who gave the divine name to Moses as the holiest of names: I am. One discovers the gratitude and joy in sheer being. In this shift of perspective the things of creation are no longer “objects” for me to manipulate, persuade, desire, or possess, but holy beings themselves, each shimmering in their own goodness and beauty.
How this transformation occurs, I believe, is a process over a life time. It is different for each person, according to the work of the Holy Spirit. You may be called to suffer, to face hidden truths about yourself, to encounter evil, to repent, to grieve, and to experience ecstasy and bliss. You may also have periods of very ordinary, grounded experience with little drama or fireworks.
The common thread through the variety and intensity of experience and activity that may occur in solitude is surrender of the self, a kind of dying and letting go of whatever you may be hanging onto in place of God, who wants no less than all of you.
Whether you argue or whine, pout or throw your journal across the room, the task, over and over, is to forsake all other lovers and lay down your life before the One Shining, Sweet, and Unfathomable Power without whom you are nothing.
God has no need of our works.
God has need of our love.
Therese of Liseaux
- How does the need to produce and “do” express itself in you? Through overworking, anxiety, fear, trying to control others?
- Recall a time when you were able to just be with God. Where were you, what enabled that kind of awareness and presence? How did such a time affect your subsequent presence to your work and other people?
- When they were little, my children used to tell me at times: “Mom, you need to go out to the cabin.” What helps you become aware of your need for solitude?
Next post in this series: Exploring Solitude: Meeting the Crucified One
- Exploring Solitude: Becoming Real (theprayinglife.com)
- Exploring Solitude: Where the Wild Things Are (theprayinglife.com)
- Exploring Solitude: Why Bother? (theprayinglife.com)
- Exploring Solitude: Deadly Acedia, or Too Bored to Care (theprayinglife.com)
- Exploring Solitude: The Wild Things Within (theprayinglife.com)