Isolation versus Solitude_____An Excerpt from “Conversations with Max”

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Conversations with Max, Samson Society

Doing Alone

Another really hard thing, for most of us, is to spend time alone. I am aware that I have earlier called this out as a bad thing. However, I am making the distinction here between solitude (a good thing) and isolation (a bad one). What’s the difference? Have you ever gone on a camping or mountain hiking trip and left everything behind? I have. It’s very revealing. Getting alone with God means we cannot hide what we are thinking. Here’s the thing. We could never hide from Him in the first place…but we thought we could because so much was going on in our busy lives. We thought He wouldn’t notice. But when we are alone, with just a Bible let’s say and/or a journal, we start to see all the places we have been avoiding letting God come into our lives…shining his Light on those places that haven’t been examined in a minute. Ever had the lights snapped on in a room where your eyes have been in the dark for a while? That stuff hurts. I never did like that. It’s the same with getting alone with God. It hurts, and it isn’t my favorite thing…but oooooh the things you can see in the light of that reality.
I think most of us who are realizing, as we grow older, the benefits of self-examination are willing to try it…we know sober judgment is critical to changed behavior. But first you have to make it to that place without becoming a gibbering idiot. That takes about 30 minutes. Your skin begins to crawl, and the craving to have communication or informational input becomes so strong you’d think you were a heroine addict looking for his next fix instead of a information junky looking for his next text. Part of this is natural. We are relational beings, and we are meant to have input. In fact one form of torture used is sensory deprivation, the complete cutting off of any input whatsoever. But like a heart patient taking cyanide pills for a condition, so we too must take a little bit of what is ultimately a bad thing, to make our hearts healthy. It is in this quiet alone place that God can really get with us. It usually happens around the thirty-first minute.
An oft-repeated tale about the famous psychologist Carl Jung reported that he had had a young priest who came to see him. The man of God was restless, feeling the power was going out of his ministry. Jung heard him out and recommended that he spent one evening a week by himself. The priest agreed to this plan and left. When he returned the following week, Jung asked him how his evening alone had gone. The priest said it went fine. He’d watched TV and enjoyed it. Jung pointed out to the priest that he was supposed to spend the evening alone, without the TV for company. He encouraged him to try the same thing again next week. The priest agreed and left. When he returned the following week, Jung asked him how it had gone. The priest said it went fine. He’d read a book all evening and enjoyed it. Jung pointed out that he was supposed to spend the evening alone, without the company of a book. The priest became exasperated. How could he possibly spend the evening just with himself? ‘Well if you don’t want to spend the evening with yourself,’ observed Jung, ‘are you surprised that others don’t want to spend time with you?’ Ouch!

It is hard. But hang in there. Right when we are contemplating hotwiring the TV or radio to receive cell phone signals, talking with what creatures we can find hanging about, or just trashing it all and going back to our “normal” life…God steps in. The questions we hear, and the answers to those questions, are what make all the difference. If we can get away from all the hustle and all the bustle of what passes for life in the 21st century, then maybe just maybe God might be able to get a word in edgewise. And if that happens look out! I’m telling you…you’ll be going off to bible translating school, or becoming a missionary, or quitting your job to mentor inner-city kids, but what you will not do is be the same as everybody else…or even the same as your own self was before you got there. Can I ask you to do something? Try this for yourself. Take someone with you if you must…but please, give God the opportunity to speak to you without anybody else messing it up. Then ask your son to do it, and make it a regular part of his life. You can pretend you’ve always done it. He won’t figure it out. Just play it like, “all the really mature believers do this son”…hat kind of deal. He thinks you’re that big anyway. And tell him this too; God really is still speaking today. But it is never in the thunder or the lightening or the earthquake…it’s in the whisper. Funny thing about whispers…you can’t really hear them unless you are really, really quiet.

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Comments
  1. Ken Turner says:

    Great thoughts David. I have an outline I have used that takes you through a one hour prayer time with God. I use it occasionally and even though it seems like an hour is a long time to pray… it’s amazing how fast that hour passes when you really get comfortable being alone with God.

  2. Diane Sirmans says:

    Excellent Mr. Mullen…

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