Meanderings

Go to Your Room – Why Solitude?

Trinlg_1Just a word of relief as we begin today’s devotions.  Father Killian McDonnell, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville (MN), offers the following on the notion of perfection:

Perfection, Perfection
I have had it with perfection.  I have packed my bags,
   I am out of here.  Gone.
As certain as rain will make you wet, perfection will do you in.
   It droppeth not as dew upon the summer grass
   to give liberty and green joy.
Perfection straineth out the quality of mercy,
   withers rapture at its birth.
Before the battle is half begun,
   cold probity thinks it can’t be won, concedes the war.
I’ve handed in my notice, give back my keys,
   signed my severance check, I quit.
Hints I could have taken:
   Even the perfect chiseled form
   of Michelangelo’s radiant David squints,
the Venus de Milo has no arms,
   the Liberty Bell is cracked.

Last week we talked about Sabbath … wasting time with God.  We are products of the Protestant Reformation and its accompanying "work ethic" so we find it hard to waste time.  I suggest that today’s lesson will be even harder as I suggest that we need to be alone with God.

Silence, solitude, the scold "go to your room" often bring anxiety
to the fore.  We struggle with solitude.  In October of 1993 Bill
McKibben, author and United Methodist, wrote these words for Esquire Magazine:

A
man walks into a room, fumbles for the remote, and turns on the TV.
This is the quintessential acts of modern life.  It obliterates the
three rarest commodities of our age:  silence, solitude, darkness.

Weather one hundred times a day.  Sportscenter.  CNN, People, WFAN.
"You give us twenty-two minutes, we’ll give you the world."  Enough
Sunday paper to last till evening.  Blockbuster video.  The Comedy
Channel.  The op-ed page.  The Sharper Image catalog, the computer
bulletin board, the phone in the car, plane, toilet.  The fax
unrolling, the pager chirping.  Two weeks of previews for the Academy
Awards, the Academy awards, three days of Academy Awards postmortem.
Ours is an age of distraction.

Well, at least Bill’s
prophetic challenge changed the course of USAmerican culture.  Jesus
said these words about our life in prayer:

And
whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to
stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that
they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their
reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and
pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in
secret will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6, NRSV).

"Go to
your room" is never a banishment to real solitude.  God is already
there (and here).  In Andrei Rublev’s (1360-1430) icon "The Old
Testament Trinity" (above) we are invited into the presence of the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … there is a place for us.  My
grandfather loved to sing these words penned by Charles Hutchinson
Gabriel (1856-1932):

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is he;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.
Chorus:
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free;
For his eye is on the sparrow, and I know [God] watches me.

I
know God watches me.  I know God is with me.  Jesus, Emmanuel – God
with us, is with you and me and yet we struggle with solitude.   Bill
McKibben closed his article with the words, "We have to fight not to
turn on the TV, to walk into the room and savor the quiet.  To get
started we have to take the long view and remind ourselves that no one
lay on his deathbed wishing he’s watched more Matlock."  So I invite you to "Go to your room!"