As with many of you who read my blog, white space is usually the scarcest thing on my calendar. Even though I intentionally schedule time to breathe, the busyness of life often sneaks in when I am distracted and steals precious white space from me. I have learned over the years that guarding my time is tantamount to guarding my life. That’s why when I have even the slightest opening, I like to get away — even if only for a few hours. Often that’s all it takes to refresh me.
Because I am always surrounded by people, I look for opportunities to enjoy solitude. I regard solitude as a spiritual discipline — getting away from distractions in order to take time to reflect, to contemplate, to figure things out, and to more meaningfully connect with God. Charles Swindoll defined solitude as “a sabbath of involvements.” I like that. Even Jesus valued solitude. Mark recorded an occasion when Jesus got up “very early in the morning, while it was still dark” and “went out to a desolate place” to pray (Mark 1:35).
Solitude should not be confused with loneliness. Broadly and simply defined, loneliness is the absence of relationships. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely. Solitude is the intentional act of placing yourself in a context where you can “be silent before the sovereign Lord” (Zeph. 1:7). It’s important to find solitude because it can be otherwise difficult to hear the soft rustling of God (1 Kings 9:12) amidst the noise and the crowd.
This morning, I tossed my mountain bike into the bed of my truck and headed to Stephen F. Austin State Park, one of my go-to desolate and quiet places. While I always enjoy riding the single-track trails at the park with friends, I occasionally like to ride alone. These solo rides do a world of good for me. The fresh air clears my head, the beautiful vistas inspire me, and seeing the wildlife and listening to the birds makes me smile. I enjoy stopping at leisure to just take in the sights and to breathe and pray.
Mother Teresa understood the value of white space and the benefits of solitude and silence. “We need to find God,” she said, “and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to reach souls.” She was right. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to enjoy some white space this morning in the midst of the beautiful trees, flowers and wildlife at the park. I came home refreshed and thankful for the quiet hours I enjoyed.