Solitude vs. Isolation

09 Jan

This is not going to be too in-depth, since it’s something I’m still musing over. Pardon me while I think aloud; hopefully it will be edifying for someone besides me. 🙂

I’ve been thinking about solitude a lot lately. I’m an introvert, and prone to be a bit of a loner if I don’t watch out for it. I live in an awesome community. I have beyond-amazing roommates. Yet lately, I find myself wanting to withdraw from all of it. Especially when I’m sitting in my anti-sound-proof house. No, I’m serious. We don’t need to install an intercom system, because we already have air ducts, and they work just as well. I’m in a coffee shop right now because I was in my room and got tired of trying to not eavesdrop on the conversation in our kitchen. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah, solitude…

As you can tell, I am somewhat less than objective about this at the moment.

Now, I understand that there’s real value to having some time to be quiet and alone, especially as an introvert. But I also understand I cannot throw a conniption fit because someone who lives at my house walks into my house. I can’t let myself be hindered from praying because I’m annoyed that someone sat too close to me in the Global Prayer Room, at the corporate prayer meeting.

God hasn’t created anyone to be a Lone Ranger. He’s put all of us into His family, His body, His people. Even in my desire for solitude (which is legitimate and healthy), my solution is not to cut myself off from all human interaction. The solution is not to go hole myself up in a cave, refusing to speak to anyone until I’m good and ready to come out. Nor can I hang a “Do not Disturb” sign on my front door and hope my roommates weren’t planning on having anyone over for coffee. It would also be silly to walk around in noise-canceling headphones for 90% of my waking hours. Not only are these isolation tactics impractical, they’re also significantly unhealthy.

Because, really, the problem is not other people. The problem is my own relentless inner traffic.

I know that if I were better settled in my own soul, then who was or was not in my house would be a much smaller issue. The number of people who were or were not in the Prayer Room wouldn’t bother me half as much. And this is the way it should be. After all, I really have very little control over who I’m around or how much noise I hear. Even if I lived entirely alone, nothing would stop the doorbell from ringing or a neighbor’s car from driving down the street and thumping its bass at ear-shattering levels. If my inner serenity depends on external circumstances, I’m sunk from the very beginning.

So I find myself back at square one, so to speak. It’s a very basic truth that I need to find my rest in Christ. It’s very simple that I need to be able to meet Him in the secret place — and I’m not talking just about the prayer closet (although that’s good, too), I’m talking about meeting Him in the secret place in my own soul. It’s so simple, and it’s a lesson that I’ve learned, relearned, and apparently am about to relearn again.

I remember a song Misty Edwards used to sing a lot (and still does occasionally), with one of the lines being, “Life takes place behind the face / Where it’s You and me alone”. The Holy Spirit lives in me. That’s as private and solitary as it gets.

So I’m looking forward to this journey, to Him leading me in rediscovering how to find my rest and my secret place in Him. I’m sure there will be some ups and downs, some joys and some tears, but if I come out of it leaning on Him more fully, then I can’t wait to begin.


Posted by on January 9, 2008 in Heart Stuff, Intimacy with God


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8 responses to “Solitude vs. Isolation

  1. Odale

    January 9, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you for the edification!! I spend 95% of my time alone and it doesn’t bother me except that, as you say, that’s not how we are supposed to live. It’s not deliberate to the degree that it is, I have just learned to tolerate circumstances for now.

    You have put a different spin on this situation, though…”relentless inner traffic” and “if my inner serenity depends on external circumstances, I’m sunk”…

    Profound thoughts that I will remember and mull over. (Are you a “muller”, as well?;-)

    God’s Blessings.

  2. Jenn S. (a.k.a. Ducky)

    January 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Oof. That hits me where it hurts because I love being alone so much. I tend to create my own solitude bubble by going on hikes by myself. But not only is that not safe in the area we live in, it doesn’t actually silence the inner traffic that you referred to–it’s just pushed beneath the surface for a while. If I come back from a walk with some semblance of peace and then go sit in the prayer room, it vanishes and I come face-to-face with what’s actually going on inside of me.

    We can’t create our own rest. We really do have to strive to enter His rest and make ourselves a resting place for Him.

  3. Amanda Beattie

    January 10, 2008 at 3:52 am

    I don’t think the solitude bubble is always a bad thing. We introverts do need to have time outs where we can recharge. But when it’s an inner traffic issue… Ouch. Yeah. You and me both.

    Thanks for commenting; it’s good to be reminded it’s not just me. :}

  4. Amanda Beattie

    January 10, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Odale: I don’t know why, but your comment just now showed up. Weird. Let me actually answer you, then.

    There are different seasons where we are more or less involved with people, so it’s good to remember that being alone is not the pitfall; isolation is. It’s when we allow that alone time to act as an artificial shield to (consciously or not) block out our own pain, our insecurities with other people, or even the voice of God, that we hit a big problem. May the Lord connect you with more believers soon!

    And yes, since you ask, I am a “muller.” 😀 Very much so.


  5. bottleman

    January 15, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Amanda, you’re certainly not alone. I for one absolutely crave time by myself and am way too cranky to be good to anyone when I am without it. My family now believes and understands this. I’ve even managed to convince my spouse that getting some time alone for herself is good for her too — she didn’t believe it at first, but now she swears by it.

    Anyway, getting time alone is a challenge when you are living in close quarters with people. I think that your resolution to find your alone space in the spiritual realm solely is very bold — and maybe being a bit hard on yourself. You seem to be in a unique social situation (I just came by your blog by chance, so I’m not quite sure I understand it) but I’m sure you’re familiar with the many religious traditions that have recognized that being physically alone can help with spiritual development — what else are monasticism and hermitism about?

    So don’t get too down on yourself if you don’t succeed entirely. Perhaps you might arrange a few hours a week for yourself somehow, somewhere. You might not even be “working” on your spiritual quest then. Maybe you’ll just be spacing out. But if you’re like me (and it sounds like you are) it will help you deal with the rest of the week.


  6. Amanda Beattie

    January 15, 2008 at 4:58 am

    bottleman: Thank you for your encouraging comment. I definitely know that finding some alone time is good and necessary, and that spiritual solitude isn’t the only valid kind. But I also know that right now, God is highlighting my need to find rest in Him more than in my circumstances. 🙂

    Thanks again for commenting!


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