Perhaps the greatest source of identity and purpose comes from our times of solitude with the Father.
In the midst of his public ministry, Jesus still found time to get away from the hustle-bustle of of life and spend time with his Father in private.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35
The greek word here for solitude is “deserted place”. Interesting he doesn’t go to a fertile place to hear God. But to a deserted place. Perhaps the greatest encounters with God happen in desert-like, deserted places.
God met the Israelites in the desert. The deepest, most holy place in the Tabernacle of Moses was also the darkest place in that ancient temple. God’s voice thundered over Jesus at his baptism, “This is my Son!” Angels attended him in the wilderness of his temptations. And there was his crucifixion. These events happened in the desert places – physically or spiritually – when things looked their bleakest.
God is perhaps nowhere bigger than in the desert places. Be it an individual struggling with spiritual dryness, an addict trapped in the endless cycle of pain of death, a teen’s heart busted up after the breakup of a boy or girlfriend, or a Faith community struggling to shine Christ’s light in a Godless community. These situations – though excruciating – draw God in like nothing else. As we humble ourselves in our deserted places, God becomes big.
It’s not easy to sneak away to get solitude with God. Jesus had to get up before the sunrise to get in his time with God. We may have to too. But it was well worth it. He returned to public life with passion and purpose. He emerged from his times of solitude empowered and energized. The deeper his private was, the better his public got.
What happens in our times of solitude, our times of communion with God? So much! But a couple of things are certain:
Firstly, we are affirmed and reminded of who we are in Christ. We are affirmed in his eternal words over us, “You are my son. You are my daughter. And I love you. There is nothing you can do that will make me love you any less.” He heals us. He reminds us of his amazing grace and salvation, our spiritual histories, and our glorious future. He speaks tenderly into the desert places of our hearts and assures us of his never ending commitment to see the thing through, simply because we called by his Name and children of his Promise. He washes us, cleanses us, anoints us with his holy oil, and embraces us like no other.
And, as we reenter public life, we discover that, even in the most mundane things, we have become empowered with a greater authority, a certain grace-filled ease in just about everything we do. We are able to stand stronger, rise higher, and fight the good fight more confidently. Like the lens of a camera focusing from blurriness to
clarity, our purpose has now become more pristine. We are clarified in his calling. We have a knowing in our knower where to go next, how to go about doing it, and (perhaps most importantly) what we are called not to do as well.
Dear Jesus, we are bounced around with pressures and expectations that lead us far from times of solitude. Thank you that you got up early that day to spend time in the desert places with our Father. And thank you that you emerged from that time assured and empowered in your call and purpose. I ask that you would provide a spiritual get-a-way for me, too. I want – no, I need – to be with the Father as you were. Still my soul and humble my heart, that I may be assured in your grace and empowered in your purpose for my life. In your holy Name I pray. Amen.