Selfish Solitude

Photo credit: Jeremy Staveley

Last year, I went through a book with my men’s coffee group called “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster.  He details out the central spiritual practices of the Christian faith, what they look like, and how you can practically apply them into your life. I found the book to be pretty compelling, and felt like it could be one of those “reference books” that you just seem to come back to every now and again. The chapter on solitude in particular stuck out to me. Foster writes about how Jesus used times of solitude to hear from the Father, and about how God uses the Discipline of Solitude to promote growth in our personal walks with Him. True stuff. In fact, both Michael Hyatt and Charles Lee wrote about alone-time and solitude a while back. I agree with Foster, Hyatt, and Lee…

But…

I’m just going to go out and say it: I view my solitude selfishly most of the time. Do I take advantage of the quiet times I have? Probably not. Between a full day at work, coming home to a wife and kids, I don’t get much alone time. So when “that” does happen, my first instinctual reaction is to be like, “Let me do what I want to do!”. A question that kept coming back to me as I was reading (and a lot lately) has been:

Do I view my “solitude” selfishly or as a way to experience God personally?

Confession: without fail, when I have some “me time” it always used to do something that involves just me (surfing the internet, writing a post, watching TV). I know I could take advantage of the quiet times God gives me to know Him more. I think we all need to evaluate our hearts during times like these. I know I do. So, what’s next? I like how Foster encourages you to take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill our day. For me: that may mean capturing the quiet moments each morning before the rest of the house is awake to create space for some God-time.

How do you view your “alone time”? What steps can you take to intentionally foster solitude in your life?

67 Comments

  • Michael

    April 25, 2011

    My alone time is very important. I typically get up at about 4:30 AM just so I can be sure to have it. The busyiness of the day can eat all my time up. So it is very important for me to get up early, shut off the computer, shut off the phone, and seek Him.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      You know, I have good intentions about getting up early for some quiet time but often that fizzles out. I want to be more disciplined in that area b/c I’ve really enjoyed doing that in the past…

      Reply
      • Donald Borsch Jr

        April 25, 2011

        I tried that approach once. All I ended up doing was answering the famous question that Jesus once asked His original disciples:

        “Could you not stay awake for an hour, you slacker?”

        Okay, maybe not exactly how He said it, but…

        Reply
  • Matthew Snider

    April 25, 2011

    My alone time is pretty minimal these days. I wish they were quieter for sure.

    Thanks for the post brother, makes me want to head home and read!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Sure thing, Matthew. Mine seems to be hard to come by as well. Want to be intentional in the “little” moments all the same.

      Reply
  • Jay Cookingham

    April 25, 2011

    I have that same book and I have read it through a few times. I used to spend 1 hour a week down by the river alone and that was an awesome time with God. I have since drifted away from that discipline, but I hope to pick that up again soon. It was different than my daily time with God…I really miss it.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      There is something special about spending time in nature. I think it has this innate way of prompting us to worship. Thanks for the comment, jay.

      Reply
  • mo

    April 25, 2011

    That phrase “me time” is kind of a red flag. Jesus’ alone times were spent in prayer and communion with the Father. I try to make sure my alone time is with God, or else end up getting into trouble. Hehe. makes playing video games a little hard to justify, but I try! :-/

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      So true! While I haven’t played video games (regularly) in quite sometime I can be just as distracted all the same. :)

      Reply
  • Jessica

    April 25, 2011

    Yes, I’m cursed with this same selfish solitude affliction. And I’ve been trying to understand and study the spiritual disciplines more, too. Luckily, I have a husband in seminary who can funnel to me the books worth reading and siphon away all the real yawners. ;)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Yawners. lol :) What seminary is he going to?

      Reply
      • mo

        April 26, 2011

        yawn state.

        Reply
  • tom

    April 25, 2011

    Dustin, thanks for the reminder as I too enjoyed that book several years back. My quiet time alone with God each morning has changed everthing about me. I used to fill my quiet time with doing “homework” for a study I was in or checking my devotion off my list. Now it is early in the morning before anything else. Kneeling seeking Him or praising Him or just being still and trying to listen to the Spirit. It is there that God has warmed my heart and then when I go to the scriptures He makes them come alive and MANY times speaks directly to what that still small voice “spoke” in those moments. I am mesmerized by what the Jesus and God’s quiet times were like. Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Thanks for the comment, Tom. I’ve been like that in the past as well–looking at those times as a checklist. Like mo and your comment, I think it is pretty cool to see how international Jesus was in those times.

      Reply
  • Tony Alicea

    April 25, 2011

    I think one of the things I can do to foster that alone time with God is get out of my usual environment. When I try to pray or read my Bible at my desk, I always seem to think of something that makes me look at the computer. It’s way too easy to get distracted.

    I think I should go outside with my Bible and get alone with God. Actually my best prayer times are when I go take a walk with the Lord.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Tony, thanks. I think that approach will help me during these times as well. Often its the simple things like looking at things differently, switching around the methods, and mixing up environments can make all the difference.

      Reply
    • David Miles

      April 27, 2011

      Tony that’s a great idea. I have the same struggle. I appreciate the insight.

      Reply
  • Michelle

    April 25, 2011

    There’s a book by Lisa Welchel called Putting the ME back in Mommy or something dumb like that. I won’t even read the book because its all about how to carve out “me” time for yourself. Yes I should take time to care for myself and not stress out over things (easier said than done) but to dedicate an entire book to how to be more selfish is kind of annoying to me. However, isn’t that what I do? I am horrible at carving out time for God lately. I can really relate to what you say Dustin. I want free time, but not for God – for myself. What a great reminder to all of us that it isn’t about us. It’s about Him. And through Him are we completely satisfied, if we really get to know Him.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Thanks Michelle. Isn’t that the opposite thing? It’s not about us in the first place, yet our culture emphasizes so much the importance of making it about self.

      Reply
  • ThatGuyKC

    April 25, 2011

    I am definitely selfish when it comes to my times of solitude. Thank you for the perspective and encouragement to take advantage of the “little solitudes”.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      No problem, KC. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • Adam

    April 25, 2011

    Been real busy of late. I need to start getting up earlier. That seems to work the best for me.

    Reply
  • moe

    April 25, 2011

    That’s a great book. I read that twice. If I’m not mistaken, he says in it, “Activity is the enemy of adoration.” Which is quite a quote.

    To answer your question: Late evenings when wife and kids are sleeping is my “alone time”. I have slacked off on my devotionals and have become shorter because I want to get an extra hour of sleep or I’m just tired or I spend it while thinking of all the things I need to do.

    Very convicting post Dustin.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      I think I marked that quote when I read the book as well. So simple, yet so rich/true/convicting. Thanks for the reminder.

      Moe, you are the king of productivity. Now I know your secrets. Admit it, you dont sleep, don’t you? :)

      Reply
  • Jim F

    April 25, 2011

    My alone time is generally late in the evening after everyone else goes to bed.

    I love the book.

    Good post.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Just like moe. Nice!

      Enjoy your father/son time today, Jim!

      Reply
  • kristinherdy

    April 25, 2011

    yikes. I usually have good intentions about alone time, but I end up reading posts, or napping or finally grading those papers. I need to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, so I can make the focus on quiet time with God, and not frenetic web surfing.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Ooo frenetic web surfing. Doesn’t that always seem to creep into our schedules? :)

      Reply
  • kevin

    April 25, 2011

    a mentor/boss gave that book to me several years ago. i made it through 3 chapters (clearly i’m great at discipline). my quiet times are generally my 20 min drive to work, with a solid CD, then I try and read for 10ish minutes when I get to work. Being in an office alone helps, given that there are no distractions. Some days I’m better at it than others.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      You know, I think it’s one of those books to read a chapter, then sit on it for a little while. Ive found it to be heavy and practical. So much to think about and take in.

      I’ve also been trying to take advantage of my commute to work. For me, it’s easy to just zone out and not think about much.

      Reply
  • Justin

    April 25, 2011

    Have you read Nouwen? It may give you a different outlook on solitude.

    Lynnette and I made a commitment to each other to allow time for personal space – either in the morning before the boys wake up. Or on a Saturday to just do whatever. We need time to de-clutter the heart and mind. It’s been something we had to set a healthy boundary around – and practice.

    Reply
    • Ryan Tate

      April 25, 2011

      Yeah! Nouwen says that solitude is the furnace of transformation.

      Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Yeah I actually read The Way of the Heart last year. Loved it…yes, different perspective for sure.

      I think that is really cool that you and your wife set aside time for that. I think that sets up even your marriage for greater things…richer conversations and all.

      Reply
  • Sandy Sandmeyer

    April 25, 2011

    I am very selfish with my alone time. I use that time to read something fiction for me. I hate when I have to use that time to read for class or something else. Then I feel that it’s not “me time”. I’m an only child and really, really like not having to share my time with anyone.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Not alone, sandy. I think most would agree that it’s easy to view that time as “me time”.

      Reply
  • Donald Borsch Jr

    April 25, 2011

    D,

    Ouch. This one stung a bit.

    Since it is true that a guilty dog barks first, allow me to say: *ahem* Woof.

    Nicely done, D.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      I’ve been barking all morning. Thanks Sir D. :)

      Reply
  • Ryan Tate

    April 25, 2011

    I’m selfish here too. I try to justify it by saying that I’ve earned my alone time. Or that I owe it to myself to be selfish. What a load of crap.

    Thanks for a great, and convicting post today Dustin.

    My wife went on a silent retreat two weekends ago. That time of solitude and silence was an amazing time for her. I plan on doing this in the near future.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      A silent retreat….interesting. Through church? Or just something she did herself?

      Ryan, I’m with you-the thought that “I’ve earned it” or “I deserve it” creeps in with me as well.

      Reply
      • Ryan Tate

        April 25, 2011

        A group of ladies from our church went on the retreat. It was hosted at a monestary about an hour away from us, and was set up by another local church in our area that we partner with on several things.

        Reply
  • Joseph

    April 25, 2011

    Honestly, I’m up and down. One week I’m making time for some alone time with God. And the next I might get ten minutes in here or there. It’s definitely a struggle for me. It’s something I need to improve upon.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      I think a good way to look at it might be 10 minutes here…. 5 minutes there… those seemingly insignificant periods can oftentimes be the most impactful moment.

      Reply
  • Jon

    April 25, 2011

    Guilty. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to have time to just do nothing or trivial things, but when you let those moments take precedence over your times with God, then it becomes an issue. I know that this is an area that I need to work on, too. I am not a morning person at all, so I try to do a lot of my quiet times at night. I think it’s like you said about those little solitudes. We tend to have preconceived notions that our time spent with the Lord should be a certain duration, and if doesn’t meet certain criteria, we give it up all together. Instead, what I’m learning is that we can spend time w/the Lord throughout the day (i.e. lunch break, drive home, etc)

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Good thoughts, thanks for sharing Jon. Sometimes routines help, but other times I think just intentionally remembering (top of mind) the small moments are just as important.

      Reply
  • Larry Hehn

    April 25, 2011

    That book is one of my favorites. Yep, I regularly fill up my potential solitude time with lots of other stuff. There sure is something to be said for setting aside time for solitude and then honoring that time. The busier we allow ourselves to get, the more necessary it becomes.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 25, 2011

      Something to be said for sure… I think that is sometimes the hard part. Following through. Intentionally honoring those times, and remembering that the disciplines can lead to powerful moments.

      Reply
  • Sean Sabourin

    April 25, 2011

    Dustin,

    Great post. I can absolutely identify with what you are sharing here. I have had a couple of opportunities to visit a Monastery not far from my home and I have enjoyed by times of solitude but I realize that I need to plan them to be a regular part of my month. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 26, 2011

      Very cool. I can imagine those times to be refreshing… Thanks for sharing, Sean.

      Reply
  • seekingpastor

    April 26, 2011

    I don’t watch a lot of TV, so that doesn’t get in the way. I think that it is important to draw near to God during along time, but also carve out time for other things, too.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 26, 2011

      Agreed! TV doesn’t really do it for me either. Other things…….

      Reply
  • chris vonada

    April 26, 2011

    for me, quite time is best early in the morning too, and I have to be very intentional about it even then to avoid the temptations of other interests. I think it also helps to make a habit out of spending quiet time with God, then it becomes much more meaningful too. Great post!!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 26, 2011

      being intentional seems to be the common thread around here. guess it’s pretty important. :) thanks for sharing, chris!

      Reply
  • Brandon

    April 26, 2011

    Great post! Viewing your along time as valuable time really helps. It is absolutely necessary!

    Reply
  • Keri

    April 26, 2011

    I’m sure it’s already been mentioned, but for me, intentionally fostering solitude means I MUST MUST MUST get up early. It seems like these days that means earlier and earlier because the older my kids get, the ealier they wake up. :( But, it is so completely worth it. It sounds so cliche, but it changes my entire day when I wake up early, spend time with Him and allow Him to steer the direction of my day from the start.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 26, 2011

      My wife would say the same thing: it changes her entire day.

      Thanks for the comment, Keri. Always appreciate it!

      Reply
  • Ben

    April 26, 2011

    Sheesh, if I wasn’t smacked in the face about my alone time enough…

    The reoccurring theme here: getting up early and starting the day off right. Totally with everybody else here, but that snooze button is the devil I tell ya!

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 26, 2011

      dude, i have a love/hate relationship with my iphone’s snooze button. why are those extra 9 minutes oh so delicious?! :)

      Reply
  • David Miles

    April 27, 2011

    Ouch! This post hits close to home.

    I definitely tend to spend my “free” time focusing on what I would like to do rather than really utilizing it to draw closer to God. This is not to say that doing things I enjoy is bad, but I’m not as effective with my free time as I should be when it comes to spending time focused on Him.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 27, 2011

      So true – I feel the same way, David. Its not that certain things are bad, it’s just sometimes I feel my time can be used more effectively. Nicely put.

      Reply
  • Pingback: The Isolationist Mentality | AbrahamChronicles.com

  • Mark Wicks

    April 27, 2011

    I am definitely selfish about my solitude. I look forward to it, protect it and covet it. Too often I use for the things I “need” to feel relaxed. Those are too seldom focused on God which is what would be truly refreshing. Thanks for the challenge to pursue solitude in a selfless way.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 27, 2011

      You’re welcome, Mark and thanks for stopping by with a comment. I am the same way – coveting that alone time… simply because it then becomes about me.

      Reply
  • Dana

    April 27, 2011

    My solitude time is on the morning after a good sleep. I find that it fills the needed energy to live the day.

    Reply
    • Dustin

      April 28, 2011

      So refreshing. Thanks for the comment, Dana!

      Reply
  • Pingback: The Toolbox | An alien perspective.

Leave a Reply