Our first duty is not to worship together. It is to worship God. You cannot separate the two completely. God is pleased when we give hugs and talk to each other across a table and sing together.
But if you are ever given the option between spending time alone and spending time with others, do not think that the latter is always better.
God said that it was not good for man to be alone, but His solution for loneliness was not a group of guys. It was a woman. And obviously the loneliness of man went beyond a loneliness of time and place. God’s solution was not merely a person in proximity. And Adam did not talk to her, asking her what’s up.
If we define the loneliness of Adam before Eve in this surface way, we will overlook the omnipresence of God. Adam was never alone, since God is everywhere in a physical way.
Adam was alone, because he did not have a helper suitable to him. This was the not good thing, the aloneness.
But if you are ever given the option between spending time alone and spending time with others, ask yourself, “How ought I best worship God?”
The answer is not simple and I do not assume I have it. But I do possess the experience that spending time alone can be a very good thing. It is very not bad. It is called reflection, silence. It is called speaking to God.
Stay in God, like a home. He is the only one with stable walls and floors, unshakable windows. You cannot put him in a box. He puts you in a house.
Do you pray out loud?
If you do not pray out loud, perhaps that is a clue that silence is sometimes a natural result of our worship.
And if you never pray out loud, I would encourage you to do it. But it is best done when you are alone.
My point is this.
Spending – can I say devoting? – time alone is not separation, desperation, or selfishness.
The conclusion of our sanctification can be summed up and framed in a number of ways, but I prefer to see the end goal as self forgetfulness.
And if the goal is self forgetfulness, one of the best way is to spend time “alone”. You will see how selfish you are. There is no one there to distract you, to give you chances to be self forgetful. To get lost in speech! There is no one to find your identity in.
Who are you? Are you secure, or is the past an albatross around your neck? When you are alone, are you crippled by introspection or thrilled by the blessings of the past and future?
When you are alone, you are alone with God. And who will you spend more time talking to?
Since when was it okay to think to ourselves, to write journals to journals?
Every thought must be directed to God. It is a recognition that we are always with Him and He with us. It is a recognition that we do not have the answers. It is fulfillment, satisfaction. It is prayer.
If our every thought, whether we are at the grocery store or in bed, were directed to God, we might soon find that we would actually be praying without ceasing.
As it is now, we typically pray to ourselves. When our thought is like this, “Oh, I was so stupid! Why did I do that? Why did I sin again?”
“What should I put in the chili tonight?”
We are praying to ourselves.
It would be better to think to God, “I am such a sinner. Forgive me.”
“God, what do you think I should put in the chili tonight? Any ideas?”
There is a bell pepper on the counter.
The goal of spending time alone is to learn how to pray better. And the goal of praying better is to forget ourselves and remember God and how He blesses us.
If being alone is a trial for you, you ought to do it. You ought to learn how to spend time with God, alone. It is unnerving. Get the introspection out of your system. Forget your past, but do not forget what God saved you out of.
If being alone is a temptation for you, do not be stupid. Do not tempt temptation. Know your weaknesses. Instead, practice silence publicly. In the grocery store.
We are together and we ought to be together, but we are not in each other’s heads. We can encourage one another, but we cannot resist temptation for each other. We are of the same mind, which should be an encouragement for individual creatures who are left with their own.
No one has access to your heart, mind, and soul besides God and the spouse at your side who keeps you from loneliness. But even their access is limited by your brokenness, your wounds.
All that to say, you cannot rely on other people. And being alone should not be unnerving, unless you are avoiding God.
If you are in a group of friends, the temptation is to hold onto the past. Even if it has only been a few months, you could be saying, “It just isn’t like it used to be.”
An inability to let go of the past is a result of an insecure identity.
If you do not like being alone, you likely try to build houses with people. And in order to feel more secure, you might try to solidify the personalities of these people. You will try to fit people into tropes. Pin them to the wall! Lay the floor. Tie them down first, because they will not stop moving. Or kill them.
There is the joker, the gypsie, the party-leader, etc, etc, etc. Even if you do not give them labels, you will place them in a box in your mind. And in that box, they are dead. Your choice. They have set lines that you remember them saying, things they did. It is like a perpetual wake. “Remember how you said this? That was funny. Remember how you did this? That was scary. Remember the cat? That was so sad!” And they are sitting on their chair like a puppet and you slap their shoulder.
In order to keep the funeral going, you seek out the past in the future. You look for opportunities to make memories, deliberately and mechanically, like the future is just part of the funeral procession. And when the attempts at making memories do not go your way, you freak out.
It wasn’t scenic enough! Mike was not acting like Mike. The sun did not set perfectly behind Sarah’s face for the picture. I don’t know. Ah well.
Stay home. And when you leave home, do not try to turn people into walls and floors. Be their home.
Maybe then, you will start treating people like people, not building material.