Scripture: Mark 1.35, 44-45
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…

…Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone”…Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Reflection: With Christ in Solitude and Loneliness
By John Tillman

In Mark’s first chapter we find Christ experiencing both solitude and loneliness—they are not the same.

Paul Tillich says, “Our language has wisely sensed these two sides of man’s being alone…It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”

Alone, in solitude, Christ communes with the Father, examines the recent events and successes of his ministry, and emerges into community with a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

Then in crowds, Christ is lonely. Christ is expelled from community in a way that causes pain and difficulty.

Richard Foster, in his classic book, Celebration of Discipline, discusses how our culture prefers the distraction of noise to the discipline of solitude.

Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence. T.S. Eliot analyzes our culture well when he writes, “Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.”

My personal copy is the ten-year anniversary edition, printed thirty years ago in 1988. Yet, Foster’s comments, originally penned in 1978 (twenty-nine years before the first iPhone) sound like they could have been written last week in Wired Magazine, if we only updated the tech speak.

Fleeing to technology from our fear of being alone, we have run into the lion’s mouth. Or perhaps, as in Amos’s vision, we have fled the lion only to be bitten by a snake.

The anti-venom we need is to learn, like Jesus, to seek solitude rather than flee to distraction. We need the type of inner solitude that Foster called, “a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment…if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; hearken, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 84.7

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 15 (Listen – 3:49)
Mark 1 (Listen – 5:05)

Additional Reading
Read More about Restorative Silence
Once a spiritual discipline, silence is now more likely to be viewed as the uncomfortable penalty for those who do not have enough to do.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post refreshed your faith?