“How do you manage your prayer life?” I asked my senior pastor. “How do you spend time with people and invest in their lives and find time to pray for the growing list of needs and requests that you become aware of?”
His wise reply spoke into another need. One that I didn’t even realize I had.
He responded that I didn’t need a prayer plan to help manage my life. I needed to spend more time by myself. Not by myself going through my prayer list. Just by myself doing solitary things that nourish my soul. Things that fill me up as I pour out.
My husband and I have adopted a lifestyle of radical community. Our front door is always open and our home is often filled with people that we love, and people that we are getting to know.
And I love it.
I speak often about my belief that we are created to be in community. Some people are hard wired to be reclusive and need solitude to recharge. And some people draw their energy from being with others. But regardless of whether we are an introvert or a extrovert – we all need to intentionally engage regularly with at least a few people who truly know us. We need to spend time in places where we are really seen.
Because knowing people well and loving them in spite of their flaws – as we are also honest being about our own imperfections – is how we develop empathy, compassion, and grace for others . And for ourselves.
My conversation with my pastor about the intentional practice of solitude helped me make a connection that I wasn’t grasping. The reverse of the truths about community that I so easily profess is just as true.
The practice of solitude is equally important even if isn’t natural for an extrovert like me.
We are all created in God’s image. Introverts and extroverts – together – reflect the wholeness of His nature. And regardless of our personality, we all need to practice a life rhythm that includes both community and solitude.
Since that conversation with my pastor, I have adopted some patterns in my daily and weekly schedule to ensure that I’m spending some time by myself. I set my alarm to wake up 30 minutes before my family to enjoy a cup of coffee in a silent house. I protect my running time as a solitary activity. I quit a beloved community group that I attended at a local church to make more space in my week for my mind and my heart to be quiet.
I never needed an effective technique to manage my prayer life. I just needed some quiet space to strengthen and support the stretched spaces of my soul.
Last week was busy and full and fun. I enjoyed consecutive activities with family, friends, and community. Sunday morning I woke up early to do some Superbowl food prep before church. Standing in my kitchen, sipping a cup of hot coffee, I suddenly felt very tired.
Not the usual trying-to-wake-up tired. A weary-to-the-bones tired.
On that beautiful Sunday morning, what I needed most was to disengage from community and allow my soul to be refreshed in solitude.
So I stay home from church.
I turned on some worship music and sang along while I cooked in my jammies.
I listened to a podcast of a dear friend preaching a beautiful sermon while I did some restoration work on The Table.
And I prayed for God’s blessing over my community while I touched up their signatures.
It was a holy morning. Spent in solitary activities. In the presence of God.
And by lunchtime my soul was at rest and my heart was full.
I LOVE my church, corporate worship, and the people there. I LOVE the community that has made roots in my home. I LOVE my family and my friends. They are My People. They are the tethers that keeping me grounded to everything that matters most. I’d be lost without them. Really. I think I’d just float away to an awful place of meaninglessness.
But sometimes I need a break from people. Even My People. Because the example of godly living that Christ models in scripture is a life that is not spent just in community OR only in solitude. Nor did he live his life by stringent time management OR by being constantly unstructured.
He lived his life with a rhythm that held space for all of those things. And I want to do the same.
How do you recharge? How do you feed your own soul so that you can nourish relationships that matter most?