“A gentleman was asked by an artist friend of some note to come to his home and see a painting just finished. He went at the time appointed, was shown by the attendant into a room which was quite dark, and left there. He was much surprised, but quietly waited developments. After perhaps fifteen minutes his friend came into the room with a cordial greeting, and took him up to the studio to see the painting, which was greatly admired. Before he left, the artist said laughingly, “I suppose you thought it queer to be left in that dark room so long.” “Yes,” the visitor said. “I did.” “Well,” his friend replied, “I knew that if you came into my studio with the glare of the street in your eyes, you could not appreciate the fine coloring of the picture. So I left you in the dark room till the glare had worn out of your eyes.”
The story above, by author S. D. Gordon bears repeating in this busy season of lights. Despite the glorious meaning of Christmas, the “glare of the street” can get into our eyes.” The decorations, the shopping, the wrapping — all preoccupy our thoughts to push aside the quiet Face of Christ.
Since the Son of Man often stole away to a quiet place for meditation and prayer, how much more should we do so? Are you ready to seek a little solitude? Here are some suggestions:
Plan ahead — the time
Block at least 15 minutes in your upcoming agenda for solitude. Mark the time as “busy.” You may need to send digital invites to family and friends to help guard your time.
Plan ahead — the location
Prepare an uninterrupted space, concealing all digital devices from sight. Before you begin, set aside a pen, journal, Bible, watch/clock, and tissues beside your space.
Enact your plan — the timing
Note your start and end time on your watch.
Although masters of solitude do not need this step, I often must force myself to stay quiet. I purposefully do not use the timer on my phone, as it allows too many distractions.
The point of this time is not to pray, although you may find your heart doing so. The purpose is not to journal your thoughts, though you may jot down impressions upon completion. The objective is not to read the Word, although the Father may bring His Word to your mind. This time is to still your thoughts before your Heavenly Father, allowing Him to be Who He is while you wait before Him.
When your mind wanders, and it will, be prepared to take a deep breath and speak out His Name. “Prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6); “My freedom” (John 8:36); “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11) or simply “Jesus” are examples. Select just one name per session, so your thoughts aren’t stimulated further every time your mind wanders.
Enact your plan — the beginning
Withdrawing your thoughts into a place of rest must start somewhere. Here are some ideas to kick-off your solitude:
* Read and meditate on the poem, “Holy Solitude” by 17th-century French author Jeanne Guyon:
Away from the world and the noise
Silence, like the night!
Happy the one that possesses you,
And tastes your sweetness,
The cure of all ills!
Unfortunate are those who do not love you!
It is blessedness,
To be heart to heart with God:
There no disquietude
Troubles the peace of this place.
* Start with a prayer like this:
“Father, I come before You to wait before Your majesty. Still, my thoughts and increase my capacity to tune out the world. Let me know Your peace.”
* Read and meditate one or more of the following verses:
“Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” Zechariah 2:12-13
“Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests.” Zephaniah 1:7
“But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20
“Behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 18:21
“Christ in you – the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
Enact your plan — closing
As you close your time, thank the Father for this time to be quiet with Him. Ask Him when He would like to schedule another time away with you. Journal any prompting you want to remember.
Now, as this season unfolds, may the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).