The gifts of being alone
I startled myself this morning remembering a large group event a year ago, surprised to find that, back then, we gathered in groups, went out freely, worshiped in the church building, hugged each other, went around with bare faces, and thought zoom a novelty. Even more stunning was that it has been ten months since we were suddenly isolated.
I daresay it has been a lonely time. Some of us have quarantined. Most of us have strictly curtailed our going out; I have not been in a grocery store since March 2, 2020. The pandemic and the safety of ourselves and others has caused us to be alone more.
Being alone does not necessary equate to being lonely. I am aware that introverts may find it easier to be alone. I am NOT an introvert, and I have struggled to be alone. I think that if I fill up the alone time, work, read, keep myself busy that I will not feel lonely. That does work, most of the time, because productivity is its own kind of accomplishment. But staying busy gets old and is not a spiritual gift. I believe that God asks us to slow down, come away, and be alone for the sake of our souls. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). This kind of aloneness we can learn by practice. Being part of a university community doesn’t teach us to be alone, even in a pandemic.
Few of us practice being alone, even when we must. We fill up the space with TV, computers, phones and other screens, noise, action, entertainment. What if we set aside five minutes to be alone without a task, without a distraction, and just to be still? What would happen? We might breathe a bit, deeply in and out. We might notice our tensions. We might feel our own feelings, and hear our thoughts. We will, doubtfully, feel the weight of the world’s angst in our hearts. We might be gratefully aware of those whose light and love we carry with us. We might, with a bit of practice, feel the presence of One who knows and loves us as we are. We will see ourselves in new ways. We will come away smarter, more efficient, spiritually refreshed. Some of us will see benefit enough to do it again tomorrow.
There are gifts in being alone, and this is an invitation to seek them--even for a few moments, today.
Jan Fuller is the University Chaplain and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.