Author John Graves wrote, “a crowded world thinks that aloneness is always loneliness and that to seek it is perversion.” Great power and an abundance of greatness come from times alone, being by yourself away from the noise and contributions of people.
Leonardo Divinci, as he was working on The Last Supper, would rise early and go to the monastery before any of the spectators or his assistants would arrive so he could be alone. He sat in silence with his thoughts and the large artwork before him. He was well known to take long walks by himself, carrying a small notebook, and merely looking and watching what was all around him.
It is challenging to cultivate creativity, learning, and thoughts in a room full of people. Solitude is not for hermits. It is for healthy, functioning people.
Just the thought brings about fear or anxiety, yet it brings such warmth and enthusiasm to a believer. I do not believe that as believers, we should become monkish. Yet, there are things from monks living in solitude which we can learn.
At twenty-six years old, Thomas Merton arrived at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. It was 1941, and this year would be the first of many voyages into solitude, which would continue for the next twenty-seven years. The purpose did not fail. It is was an active adventure into exploring himself, human nature, and religion. It was also a solvent of such problems as injustice, war, and inequality.
Calling it a vocation, he would later write:
To pray and work in the morning and to labor and rest in the afternoon, and to sit still in mediation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. This is a true and special vocation. There are few who are willing to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feel on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence.
Yes, solitude and silence are great for one. For a believer, one should add one more person to those time. One should add one more place at the table for one and make it two. Invite God into your times of solitude and silence. Allow His presence into your presence. Begin a venture to know God intimately for intimacy is created when two people come together alone.
One must understand the difference between alone and loneliness. From the beginning of God’s Word, He declared to us that he did not create us to be lonely. (Genesis 2:18) Furthermore, God said loneliness is not good. It is God’s perfect will that His highest creation, man, is filled with His presence. Yet, too many people can hinder our purpose for God.
Nevertheless, we have settled gathering our will and purpose from others. We can not select our mission from man. It can only come from God, and intimacy with God allows you to know Him and His nature. The Bible declares if you know Him, you will do mighty things. As a man with his wife, you know the particular place where you can talk and have intimate conversation and time together, which will be uninterrupted.
Intimacy is confidential familiarity or friendship. I define intimacy as ‘into me, you see.’ And yet, it is hard to fathom the Creator of the Universe desires to have an intimate, purposeful relationship with us.
Pause and meditate on this for a while.
The Creator of the Universe who flung the stars into darkness desires to be with you and in you. The Creator of the Earth, Moon, and Sun is now with you and in you. The Creator of Mount Everest, the Himalayans, the Appalachians, is with you and in you. God himself, who created you and knitted you together and placed bone upon bone and sinew upon sinew, is with you and in you. Yes, God, who numbered your hairs not with an amount but individually numbered the hairs upon your head, has chosen to be upon you and in you. The Creator with His creation. It is called the’ secret place.’
Psalm 91:1-2 declares:
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
Adam walked with God and knew this secret place.
Enoch walked faithfully with God and knew this secret place.
Noah walked with God.
Moses walked with God.
Abraham walked with God.
Daniel walked with God.
Isaiah walked with God.
Paul walked with God.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter walked with God along with Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament. They all knew this unique, intimate, secret place where they could meet with God face to face.
David knew the importance of intimacy with God. He declared:
O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NLT
Most people believe Jesus went town to town performing miracles, signs, and wonders. No, Jesus went from a time of being alone with God to other times of being alone with God, moments of prayer to moments of prayer. Miracles, salvations, healings, and raising of the dead took place in between the secret times with God.
It is in these times that His deep calls out to our deep. His most profound, most trusted parts cry out to our deepest, most disclosed parts and desires to infuse life, abundance, and purpose. One can not enjoy the deep until one comes to the end of a superficial life.
Paul encouraged us to search for God’s deep secrets.
But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT
Yes, God has secrets, but for us to obtain them, we must abandon the quick, superficial, and hurried. We must slow down, pause, and seek intimacy with the Master. In the microwave age of the fast and hurriedly, we must learn the art of refraining, to think deeply, worship meaningfully, and be unhurried.
Richard Foster’s words leap when talking about superficiality:
Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a great number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.
Do you desire to be where you exist today? Are you hurried? Are your soul or spirit superficial? Or are you ready to launch out into the deep, gather God’s secrets, and hear His voice for your life? Charles Swindoll said in his book, Intimacy with the Almighty:
Some of God’s best truths, like priceless treasures, are hidden in the depths most folks never take the time to search out. Surrender is the key that unlocks the vault of God’s best and most buried treasures.
Many believe His treasures and secrets are about the wonders of the world. Others believe they are His intricate details of creating the universe. They are all about you, His highest and ultimate creation. When your deep calls out to His deep, you discover His plans, design, and will for your life.
When I was in college, I would stay up late, like most college students, reading the Bible. I would get up in the mornings and go to the cafeteria where I would have my morning breakfast with Jesus. Morning after morning, I would sit and meditate on His Word and our relationship.
One morning during one of those breakfasts, Jesus spoke to me and unlocked the secret of my future and purpose. He asked me to give Him my life and gave me instructions to remain in my college town after graduation, love the poor, and preach and teach His Word. It was so loud I thought others had heard.
I immediately left the cafeteria to walk across campus to my first class. I was shaken and stirred at what I had heard. I had employment post-graduation. Now, Jesus was saying to me to remain, love the poor, and preach and teach His Word. My flesh cried no. My spirit answered a resounding, yes!
It is in those secret places when we are alone, God speaks into our lives, changes our destiny, and increases our influence. I think of the beautiful hymn of “I Come to the Garden Alone.” In the American South, where I grew up and still live today, this song is a familiar song at funerals. The hymn was written by C. Austin Miles to convey Mary Magdalen’s delight in the garden when Jesus, whom she had believed was dead and buried three days earlier, is very much alive and in person right in front of her. It elaborates on the emotions of one who thought the one she loved walking and talking with is dead is now alive.
The garden, which brought death upon the world (Genesis 2), now takes place in a garden where the first person, a woman, sees the resurrected Savior and life infuses. Everyone needs a garden experience.
Yet, this is not a funeral song. It is a song of joy, a song of delight. Who you thought was dead is very much alive. The fellowship we thought was gone forever with God is now revived. Let the relationship ensue. Every day is a day we can walk with God and have an intimate relationship. Every day can be alone times with God in the garden of your life.
Go to the garden alone, for you will not be alone long. There you will meet with the Almighty, and He will reveal the deep secrets about His will and purpose for your life.
I Come To The Garden Alone Hymn
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.