February 26, 2021
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them,
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Matthew 26:36-45)
As a little boy who had just had an argument with or been chastised by my parents, I would storm off and hide under my bed, where I stayed until I had calmed down and would then reappear as if nothing had happened. As a grown, professional accountant faced with the demise of the firm (Arthur Andersen) after having worked there for 22 years, I headed off to the woods and walked for hours. And I came back having made peace with the situation. What was I seeking? Frankly, I don’t know. I do know that I prayed a lot in both situations. I also know that solitude was welcome and necessary for my healing.
The Bible is full of stories where solitude is crucial: just think of Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19), Jonah in the whale (Jonah 1:17-2:9) or Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene (Matthew 26:36-45). Moses was able to hear and deliver the Law to Israel. Jonah was able to bring salvation to the citizens of Ninevah, even if he didn’t feel he should. Jesus was able to discern God’s will – “not my will, but thine be done.” Each gives us a view into intense communication with God – something that solitude enabled.
Yet solitude also gives us the opportunity to recharge our batteries. The last half of the first chapter of Mark describes a busy day that Jesus had: teaching in the synagogue; healing the sick and casting out demons; and having a meal at Simon Peter’s house after helping his mother-in-law out of her feverish bed. Jesus’ remedy was to go off the next morning to a solitary place, to recharge his batteries and pray.
Lord, thank you for giving us examples of the importance of solitude. Give us opportunities to communicate with you and to recharge our batteries in solitude.