On Saturday I went to see the musician known as the ‘Modfather’, Paul Weller, in concert. The once Jam lead singer put in an amazing performance of classics and new tracks. The Changingman was slick and held us spellbound for a good two hours in a beautiful forest surrounding on a warm summer evening. Great night out. Yet as always people have been asking me, who did I go with? Allison’s work colleagues in particular were intrigued to find out who I went gigging with. The fact is I went on my own. I travelled all the way to Gloucestershire, sat and ate my picnic, listened to some great music and took in the surrounding sights and sounds with no human company. Loads of people then comment to the effect that they could never do that, but I am often found on a jaunt on my own. In fact I would go so far to say that I actually enjoy my own company and feel secure in just being me and spending good quality time with no conversation apart from with myself and my Creator. I have learned to embrace the position of isolation and silence and solitude. Does this make me anti-social? Some people might think so, but I love being amongst people in my solitude. I can go to a music festival for a whole weekend and hardly have one conversation and yet have a brilliant time. I can be all by myself and yet have realised a long while ago that I am never ever alone. I think to truly grasp the richness of fellowship and relationship a person must first grasp the richness of solitude. It is only in discovering the Me outside of others that I can start to become the true Me with others.
Talking With Myself.
Maybe it is because I grew up as an only child that I learned the art of solitude. Although I loved being a social being, always had friends around me, had quite a big extended family that spent a lot of time together, holidayed with neighbours, I also never felt the loneliness of being an only child. There were times I would love to go into my room, shut the door and enter my own world of fact and fantasy. It was here that dreams were dreamed, thoughts were birthed, conversation with myself and the Whoever was listening would take place. Although I would not always know the fullness of what I was doing, I was connecting with my Creator and He was connecting with me. The forming that began in my mother’s womb was continuing day by day. I was never afraid of my own company. I am aware of flaws in my character from being an only child, I do get lost in a crowd of people I do not know and sometimes I find it hard to communicate one on one with people at a deep level, but being comfortable with my own skin has helped me enormously with the transition into the world outside of the walls. I do not need people around me to feel affirmed. I do not need constant company to feel accepted. I have learned to be content in my own skin, realising that I am never really alone. God is a constant companion in and through all things. I know it is not good for man to be alone, and I am not alone, never alone when He is around. I have my family of beautiful wife and four loud boys, the house is always full of life and laughter and hopes and fears. I love my family to bits and love spending time with them all. Yet I think those times are richer because I have learned the art of embracing the place of solitude. I think it is the artist, the creative part of me (us) that can embrace this realm. Here is the womb of present and future days. The place where the pen, the paintbrush, the scalpel can begin to create. Where Word takes on flesh. It is here that many of my blogs and thoughts are birthed. An embryo of possibility. Talking with myself may be the creative hotbed that could bring a seed of hope for others.
Me, Myself and I.
It is not always a safe place. This is the place where demons of thought seem to send people over the edge. There have been times when I have sat in hotel rooms and fought the negative whispers of another realm altogether. My darkest moment was a battle with myself that nearly tipped me over the scales. Yet it was the realisation that even in the dark I was never really alone that saved me. Many Bible accounts have stories of those who were all by themselves and yet not alone. Jacob isolated and running from his home. In a place of solitude he discovered true Bethel, not in a place of fellowship or a place of worship, in solitude. Joseph discovered he was not on his own in the prison cell. He can have stewed in his rejection by men, as many of us could choose to do, but instead his solitude was his stage for destiny. It was living destiny itself. The embryo for dreams to be born and birthed. Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, John and even Jesus Himself, were forced into isolation and yet battled their own demons to embrace solitude. They learned that to love the place of themselves, they then learned to love others. When who I am is no longer fearful for me to face, then I am no longer fearful of facing others. This includes the flaws and imperfections, accepting that weakness is a part of who we are, that embracing can then become our strength. I do not always like what I see in the mirror of my life and soul, but I accept myself as one loved and embraced by God, my beloved. Love then becomes blind.
Shut The Door.
When Jesus asks us to go into a room and shut the door what kind of feelings does that stir up inside? Is it an horrific thought to be alone only with your own thoughts? Maybe this is the most powerful aspect of prayer that Jesus was trying to communicate. it was not about the words at all, but about you. You naked before the Creator and lover of your soul. To lay everything bare before Him. Facing yourself. Because I believe Jesus knew that if we could not embrace ourselves then we would always find it hard to embrace others. The darkest place is not facing the devil or our enemies, it is in fact facing ourselves. This is not to make us uncomfortable and bring shame, it is to embrace us and draw from us the diamond that we are. God is not into guilt trips or wanting us to beat ourselves up about stuff, He is into creating wholeness out of cracked pots. We need to learn the art of embracing solitude, because from here we can become even greater social beings. For many who cannot even go into the next room on their own, never mind go to a concert, it will be a huge challenge, but one that will be so rewarding if embraced. If you are not ready to face your self then no pressure, God understands the full make up of who you are. But remember the next time you may be all by yourselves, you are never really alone.