Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Learning to be Lonely

Lindsey Smallwood

Lately I’ve been longing to be lonely.

It’s totally weird for me.

I’ve always been the most extroverty of extroverts, totally energized by noise and people and busyness. Practicing a devotional life of quiet mediation on Scripture and private prayer is a discipline I’ve always struggled with because, well, booooring.

But all of a sudden I’m finding a longing to get away, to be alone with my thoughts, to rest not just by napping but by taking the easy yoke Jesus offers. I desire to hear His still small voice in my heart and to experience the restorative power of studying scripture.

It’s a model set by Jesus, we see it in Mark 1.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.

This little verse follows the dynamic work Jesus was doing, teaching, healing the sick, casting out demons. It proceeds another passage full of Jesus proclaiming good news and performing miracles.

In the midst of this busy-ness, Jesus needs a break, time to be in touch with His Father, a lonely place to make sense of His work and His life.

I love Henri Nouwen’s take on what’s happening here.

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place, our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures.

It’s quiet that helps us know what to say, solitude that makes our time in community meaningful. As I balance raising two little ones who both want to talk to me all the time, working at my church, and being involved in my neighborhood and community, I’m realizing that I need to make space for God more than I ever have before.

In the past, I’ve experienced that longing as a burden, an unloved discipline, something else to add to my planner or pencil in my to-do list. But I’m beginning to see it more as a reward, a joy, something I can sneak into my day the way I do the Halloween M&Ms still hiding behind my canned goods in my pantry.

I’ve started keeping my Bible in my gym bag, taking time to read and pray after I finish cardio but before the childcare time runs out. When I get the boys to bed (*finally*) I take a moment to sit in the dark at the top of the stairs and think about the day, with gratitude for all God has done. I bought a tiny journal that lives in my purse and sometimes I’ll jot down a prayer as it comes to mind, just right there in the middle of my every day life.

I’m sneaking in solitude and discovering that it is it’s own reward, that time spent thinking and listening to God and considering truth is nourishing and even delightful.

I’m learning to love the lonely place.

What about you?
How do you make space for spiritual practice?
Is it a joy? Challenge? Both? 
Here's to finding your lonely place today.