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solitude

You may have heard me share about the positive experiences I’ve had and the authentic relationships I’ve developed with people (at least in large part) through the use of social media.

Social media is not only frequented–as some might say–by a wasteland of people glued to their screens, participating in superficial conversations and wasting endless days in their dark basements. I have lots of proof that goodness can and does come from time spent online.

There is evil and waste too, of course. But that is not by any means the only story to be told.

However, even for me–someone who actually gets paid to spend LOTS of time online and enjoys it–it gets to be too much. It can easily become all consuming. Too soon, I find that I have no moments in my day without an eye on the computer or without holding an iPhone in my hand.

And when I go to bed? I ask myself how I can possibly leave my phone downstairs out of sight, out of mind? What if someone needs to reach me in the night? So I think… I’ll just put it over here while I settle in…oh ok… maybe I will check my email just one more time before bed. I tell myself that it is not a big deal that I am filling every silent moment with activity.

Two experiences this month have reminded me of the importance of eliminating unnecessary distractions in my life whenever possible: Anna Dvorak’s Breathing Space Retreat–3 days in early November when I chose to leave all electronics behind, especially my laptop–and my brother Matt’s sermon last weekend, on the idol of entertainment.

Both offered plenty of inspiration and motivation to once again eliminate the noise and  frenzy that I have allowed to fill all of the crevices in my life. I don’t have a lot of wide open spaces to fill with noise, but I have plenty of crevices.

I need to guard them carefully. 

(From Reaching Out) To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit,  from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

I’ve been saving these Nouwen quotes for an appropriate occasion and this seems to be it. Not only do we simply “let” media clutter take over huge aspects of our time and money; we often actively seek it out in order to avoid all kinds of feelings and thoughts and callings we may not want to admit are right below the surface.

I’m grateful for these November messengers with compasses, pointing me back in the right direction. I have had an extremely busy fall, packed full of activity and late nights of working. I intend to unplug more during this season of waiting and Advent, allowing the chill in the air and the early arrival of darkness to lead me to quieter, more contemplative places. And to earlier bedtimes.

Even though I enjoy my work very much, I’ll be taking a step back from social media in the evenings and on the weekends. And, I’ll be listening to more music and watching less “reality” TV (yes, I do love it.)

This seasonal transition, from fall to winter, reminds us that it’s time to set aside the “outward-reaching cravings and to seek instead the inward-reaching search.”

It’s time to settle in and listen.

As soon as we are alone,…inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieities, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important.
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (Making All Things New and Other Classics)