It’s predicted that more people than ever will stay up this New Year’s Eve, not to welcome 2021, but to make sure that 2020 is gone! I suppose every one of us feels this way - regardless of bedtime.
The prospect of still more quarantining, social distancing, and limited interaction with others is not at all what we hoped for. The production of Coronavirus vaccines creates some optimism, but we’re months away from returning to our routines. When it comes to being alone and remaining apart, we’re getting far more practice than preferred.
We naturally chafe at social isolation because God fashioned us for community. But there’s great value in learning to be alone. The Biblical tradition does not regard solitude simply as an enemy to be feared, but a friend to be embraced. Think of Moses on Mt. Sinai and John the Baptist in the wilderness. Recall the prophets, monks and mystics who felt God’s intensifying presence as they lived without company.
We fear being alone because we doubt God’s nearness and resources. Left to ourselves, we constantly seek out distractions: on Facebook, the cell phone, the computer, and HD TV. It’s easier to participate in the “attention economy” than to listen to our inner being, with its disquieting thoughts and emotions. Can we accept that solitude is part of God’s growing purpose in our souls? If so, we may make surprising discoveries about holy things.
I hunger for the day when we can gather freely with family and friends. I can’t wait to see ballparks full of cheering fans and musical concerts where everyone sings along – and no one wears a mask! And all of us look forward to resuming services of worship in which handshakes and hugs serve once again as sacred gestures. That day has not come, but it’s on the horizon. Until it gets here, don’t waste those hours you spend by yourself. Embrace them as a singular opportunity to draw nearer to God than ever before.