We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. It is a difficult lesson to learn–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a solitary place where he could be alone in prayer.
I spent the afternoon gardening at my friend Mariann’s house. When we parted ways she blessed me with gardening goodies. As soon as I got home, I planted those green gifts, along with a packet milkweed seeds I’d purchased, to add to my growing gardening collection of butterfly-charmers. I love everything about butterflies–from the fuzzy caterpillar stage to chrysalis to the final metamorphosis. That’s why flowers like allium, asters, bee balm, coneflowers, daylilies, hollyhocks, lavender, Russian sage and Shasta daisies fill every space possible in my garden to attract my beautiful winged friends.
I now notice almost every single butterfly. I pay attention to most plain old butterflies, not just the ones in tiaras or argyle socks. Butterflies…are like one perfect teaspoon of creation.
For all the enjoyment fuzzy caterpillars and flittering butterfly antics bring, it’s the cocoon stage that absolutely intrigues me. I find it nothing short of supernatural! How God takes a hairy little creature with myriad legs and transforms it in the quiet darkness of a chrysalis into a winged thing of beauty–in just a week or two–flabbergasts me.
And yet, astonishingly enough, that very miracle of transformation that God shapes in a cocoon, he also longs do in us.
But, that kind of work requires something of us.
It requires our time. Just as the weaving of a caterpillar into a butterfly takes time.
In order for God to do that kind of supernatural metamorphosis in our lives, we must carve out time hidden away from all eyes but His. Time alone. Time in solitude. Time enough to free us from distractions. Time enough to abandon ourselves to the Spirit in order to stretch, mold and shape God’s heart in us.
Solitude is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its own end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world. In solitude our heart of stone can be turned into a heart of flesh, a rebellious heart into a contrite heart, and a closed heart into a heart that opens itself up once more.
Henri J. Nouwen