15 Dec A Gift You May Not Know You Need This Christmas
“You need a break – a chance to really get away and rest.” My husband’s words felt like refreshing water to my parched soul and yet I immediately began to state all the reasons why this was simply impossible: homeschooling the kids, regular commitments, and special holiday events, just to name a few. He silenced all my objections by simply taking my hand and leading me to my computer where he pulled up kayak.com. “So, where do you want to go?“
I decided on Orlando, FL. Why Orlando? I would have gone somewhere local but my husband thought it would be a good idea if I went somewhere far, far away from all of my responsibilities at home. Plus, I wanted to go somewhere warm and we found a really cheap airline ticket. But I digress.
The plane ride was seamless (I mean, I had no crying kids in my lap, right?!) and I was there before I knew it. Then the reality of my freedom set in and it was just glorious.
A Desire to Unplug
I had two full days to myself and for almost the entire first day, I didn’t talk to or interact with anyone except when I was buying a mocha (which I had two a day – they are my favorite) or meals. The extreme shift from my daily routine was not lost on me. I reveled in the fact that while I am usually surrounded by four little people for 12-14 hours daily talking, screaming, or asking (sometimes difficult) questions into my ears, there was nothing but silence or the hum of traffic, the soft dialogue of passers-by, or the warm breeze blowing through the trees.
For several hours, I simply walked around a lake, observing the beauty of the water and trees. I didn’t even think much and realized only later it was as though my brain itself received a much-needed Sabbath from the regular mental stimulation and calendar juggling that I am so akin to managing.
All alone, I became more aware of how phone-centric our society has become as I observed people head down into their devices around the lake and in restaurants, even while they were dining with others. I felt a prick of conviction in my own heart as I reflected on how frequently I pick up my own phone to check for text messages that, of course, deserve my quick response.
I fought to resist the urge to pick up my own phone during the several meals I ate out by myself, realizing that due to lack of practice, I had forgotten the peaceful pleasure of dining alone and giving my full attention to the taste of my food and to the beauty of my surroundings.
The Gift of Solitude
I awoke the second day with a greater sense of peace, clarity, and the feeling that I had experienced a sort of mental and emotional de-tox. It felt wonderful.
Solitude forces us to face the raw reality of the state of our hearts. We may become immediately restless to fill the void of silence with something, someone, anything that can keep us from the power of this experience.
If we persist through the restlessness, we will find that very good things come from time spent in solitude.
In the solitude of the Judean hills, a group of shepherds watched as the stars of the evening sky turned to a host of angels glorifying God and announcing Christ’s birth. On the top of a mountain, Jesus spent a night in prayer and solitude with His Father and emerged from solitude to choose his 12 disciples. Forty days of solitude in the wilderness, facing the temptation of the devil, prepared Jesus to begin his public earthly ministry.
Jesus modeled solitude as a regular practice during his life on earth. If the Son of God needed time alone, how much more do his followers? As C.S. Lewis said, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.“
Indeed, a good friend confided in me that while she was in one of her busiest seasons of the year, surrounded by people and constant activity, her soul felt lonely. Does this sound at all like the holiday season to anyone else?
I wonder, are there any other busy but lonely people out there this Christmas? It may seem counter-intuitive, but getting some time alone, both for personal reflection and prayer, may be the very thing you need most in this busyness of the season.
Don’t let December fly by you in a blur of tinsel and candy and presents and parties. Take a long walk on a starry night all by yourself, sit by a fire without the television or your phone nearby to distract you from taking in a few moments of peaceful reflection, or follow Jesus’ example and just “withdraw and find a lonely place and pray” (Luke 5:16).
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).