“Jesus withdrew to lonely places.” (Luke 5:15)
How many times a day do I long for “quiet time?” To be alone with myself, my thoughts, and to get away with God for a time of solace and stillness. My desire is for aloneness. However, when I plan these times, I must make sure all my circumstances are in place: child and husband gone, coffee brewing, house clean, phones and computer turned off. I want my environment to be perfect…so much so that I end up spending more time creating perfection than I do being alone. If my circumstances aren’t the way I envision them to be, I say to myself, “forget it…I’ll just do it later.” But later never happens. Instead, life does.
It’s interesting to me the choice of words used to describe where Jesus got away to in the many translations of the Bible. He withdrew to lonely places (NIV). To the wilderness (KJV). To the desert (AMP). None of these words depict a beautiful setting with flowers on the kitchen table, a vacuumed floor and emptied dishwasher. They paint a picture of something entirely the opposite.
Loneliness is depressing, a place of complete fragility, and isolating. The wilderness is unkempt, chaotic and frightening. The desert is vast, empty and creates thirst.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Where I seek the perfect environment before I can withdraw to be with God, Jesus withdraws to be with him in the midst of imperfect environments. In the isolating, chaotic and empty places, Jesus withdrew. He sought out lonely places. He purposely went to the wilderness and the desert. This is where he found perfect communion with God.
I have been meditating on this for a long time, as I have felt lately like I am in a lonely place…a wilderness…a desert. A place where I don’t know why I feel the way I do; a place where I feel no one really understands what I’m going through. Yet in this place I have not sought out time to be alone with God and to seek him in it. Why? Because my environment hasn’t “allowed” me to do it. I have strived for all the pieces to be in place before I can do it:
…for my energy level to be higher
…for my kitchen floor to finally stay clean
…for the dishwasher to never be emptied again
…for the stains on the carpet to magically disappear
…for the laundry to wash and fold itself
…for my phone to stop ringing
…for my email inbox to be cleaned out
…for 10 pounds to have melted off in the night
I have been waiting for something that might never happen. The decision comes after the realization that nothing will ever be perfect…but what am I going to do about it anyway? Do I allow my circumstances and environment determine the quality of my time with God? Do I continue to cheat my relationship with him by choosing to work instead? I am ashamed to say it has taken me too long to realize nothing will change unless I change it. The authority is in me.
I can choose to let dirty dishes sit in the sink.
I can choose to ignore the ringing of my phone, or to turn it off.
I can choose to leave the TV off so I can read my Bible a little longer.
I can choose to not eat cake so that 10 pounds won’t turn into 15.
I can choose to not respond to email for 24 hours.
In the loneliness, isolation, chaos and emptiness, Jesus found a connection to his Father. He demonstrated that it is in those places that withdrawing is necessary for survival. Instead of screaming at the top of my lungs, or letting resentment and bitterness take root, I can choose to shut myself in my closet and withdraw to God. Even for just a few minutes, I can get alone with him, express whatever is on my mind and seek him for solace. I don’t have to plan to clean the house the night before, sneak downstairs with no one hearing me, set the coffee on auto-timer and my alarm to wake me up so I can have an environmentally perfect alone time. Instead of letting the chaotic, frustrating and depressing moments pass, I need to seek God in them. It is in those moments where I’m assuming, based on Jesus’ example, God has the most tender, healing and refreshing blessings planned for me. I don’t want to know how many I’ve missed…and I don’t plan to miss anymore of them.
Welcome to my jungle, Lord!