I always kept my door locked. Even when I was in the room and awake. Even if I was not studying, trying to focus, trying to sleep, or trying to get something done. Even if I was just watching another episode of SportsCenter while scarfing down lunch in between classes. In 2009, living in a fraternity house with 27 guys, there was always someone to hang out with. Regardless of the time of day, guys popped in and out of each other’s rooms constantly. Most guys left their doors wide open when they were home, happy to have someone come sit on the couch to shoot the breeze with.
Me? You could knock on my locked door.
If I wanted some time to myself, I would often just ignore the knocking while smiling to myself. I would revel in those few moments of solitude in the midst of a schedule packed full of nothing but people from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed.
I thought I didn’t get much time to myself back then.
Fast forward six years: I have not had a meal to myself, taken a car ride, or even taken a shower by myself. In six years.
People often ask me what the first thing I would do with a physically restored body and independence would be. Some may assume I would opt to go for a run, play a round of golf, or go for a drive. Me? After hugging my fiancée for the first time, I would get away. Alone. I would spend a week in a cabin in the woods by myself. Not talk to anyone. Henry David Thoreau style.
In the 1850s Thoreau ventured to Walden Pond. He wanted to learn about life, get a perspective shift, and find some new revelation. Going to the woods allowed him to reflect on the desire to “live deep and suck the marrow out of life.”
Similarly, Jesus often withdrew from the crowd for some solitude. Even being God in the flesh, he still needed time to recharge, pray, and be with his Father.
With severely limited time to myself, it is often hard to even collect my thoughts. For the better part of this year in particular I’ve needed assistance with stretching my arms out due to muscle tightness and with shifting my weight in the chair multiple times every hour during the day. This leaves minimal time to focus long enough to accomplish much, let alone to start to think or pray.
I read about Jesus saying something simple, such as “go into your room, close the door and pray to God in secret,” and can’t help but get frustrated. How am I supposed to do that without ever getting substantial alone time?
Regardless of my physical status, I don’t want to make excuses. Although a cabin may not be feasible at the moment, I still need to recognize and take advantage of any opportunity on my own to think, contemplate, and pray- even if it’s slightly more complicated right now.
For the longest time waking up in the middle of the night drove me crazy. However, recently it dawned on me that it is essentially the only time I am able to have time to myself without needing to call someone into the room. I can lay there in peace contemplating, reflecting, and praying.
Maybe waking up in the middle of the night has been a blessing after all. Maybe instead of getting frustrated I can learn from Jesus’s example and take full advantage of every chance I do get on my own, regardless of how limited it may be. Maybe this perspective gives me a chance to open my eyes and appreciate the moments of solitude I do get.
Now excuse me while I take advantage of the next 30 minutes by myself.
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