A month ago I made the familiar trek to our family lake house in Waupaca, Wisconsin. After 2 short hours in the car, I opened up the heavy, tan curtains to see the sunshine forming a glistening, magical path across the lake. Watching the wind press ripples to the shore, my home away from home was as beautiful as it always was; but this time it felt different. I was completely alone.
I had been brainstorming a solo, writing retreat for quite awhile. And this particular week, Chris was traveling for work and my calendar was completely empty; the timing was perfect. I was so excited to get away for a refreshing time at the lake. But a measly few minutes upon arrival, a small, scared part of me shouted, “Mindy, what were you thinking?”
Right now, I’m in a season where I feel like a pedestrian standing in the middle of traffic as the world races on. Everyone is moving forward, building families, starting new adventures, and here I am standing still. There’s nothing wrong with standing still – goodness and growth is still evident, but I feel alone.
In this moment, staring over the lake, I shook my head at myself. Being alone at the cabin, a place that is typically teeming with chatter, laughter and all things go-go-go, felt terribly weird. The empty chairs and the deafening silence were overwhelming. I was uncomfortable. It was tempting to pack my bags into the car and drive home right away, but I felt like the Lord led me here to spend this time alone, and I wanted to press into that – to see what He might say as I sat in the silence.
Tucking myself into the corner of the pontoon boat seat, I cracked open Present over Perfect, a book by Shauna Niequist. I’ve been slowly reading my way through its pages, and the chapter I read that day was perfectly timed, as if it was written specifically for me on this uncomfortable day.
“ I’ve sensed that there are some seasons in which the only way through is alone, a solitary path of listening and learning… When you arrive on the other side, the people you love most will be there to meet you, certainly, to wrap their arms around you and walk closely with you once again. But it’s only when we’re truly alone that we can listen to our lives and God’s voice speaking out from the silence.”
With wide eyes, I uttered a shocked, low, “whoa.” Through Shauna’s words, I felt the Lord saying to me, “Yes. You are in a season of being more alone. But, that is okay! Right now, you are okay. Embrace this season; it will be fruitful.” Looking back, I think God pressed me to go up north by myself so that I could stare my aloneness right in the face, realize I am okay, and change my perspective. Instead of viewing this season as this icky, uncomfortable thing, I'm working on welcoming the opportunity to listen for the Lord's voice and to listen for my own too. In fact, I've found a new tenderness, a new craving for spending time alone. I even ran up north for a second solo trek a few weeks later and I was not uncomfortable at all – I was relaxed and so full of joy.
Shauna continues the chapter saying, “These last months have required more silence than any other season in my life. I’ve both craved it and avoided it, in equal turns, and finally realized that the craving is something to listen to, something to obey.” I think that's the kind of season I am in too; one that for whatever reason requires more silence, and I want to lean into that. I don't want to run or hide from it - I want to listen to the cravings, embrace the solitude and listen to what the Lord has for me.
If you’re like me, in a place where you feel like the Lord is drawing you away from the noise and into solitude, please let me encourage you to step into it with me. I know this post has been heavy with quotes from Present over Perfect, but allow me to end by sharing a few more words that spoke courage into my shaky heart, in hopes that they might propel you, too.
“In seasons of deep transformation, silence will be your greatest guide. Even if it’s scary, especially if it’s scary, let silence be your anchor, your sacred space, your dwelling place. It’s where you will become used to your own voice, your agency, your authority. It’s where you will nurture that fledgling sense of authority, like a newborn deer on spindly legs. Silence will become the incubator for your newfound spirit, keeping it safe, growing it steadily.”
– Shauna Niequist, Present over Perfect