I am (re)discovering solitary travel. Thirteen hours driving alone. Random hotels, airports, and country roads. My laptop provides a longer tether to a now-empty nest. Reading Rooted for our Advent theme of growth in the fruitful darkness (which inspired the choice of root-motif wooden disks from Ten Thousand Villages as tangible take-home reminders), I was particularly drawn to the chapter Alone: the Essential Complexity of Solitude.
Then the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert alone. Mk 1:12(ICB)
The wilderness is a place of hunger and danger. Spiritual intensity and temptation. Jesus’ companions were wild animals and angels. He relied on the written word, committed to memory, for protection.
I bring a stack of books, my Bible, and journal. I find more time to read, write, and reflect when I break from my (beloved) routines. But the sense of danger on the road alone is heightened. What if the car breaks down, or gets a flat, or doesn’t start? The what if’s are a devilish whisper, calling out to us.
Of course we must take all commonsense precautions to keep safe, but in my own experience, nothing leads more swiftly or thoroughly to a deepened sense of wholeness, an appreciation of interflow with all of life, and a clarity about the work I am called to bring to this moment on earth than periods of extended solitude. Rooted, p. 95.
Venturing into the high-desert town of Alpine, Texas, I found myself reflecting on the many terrains that Jesus walked. He hiked up to the mountains alone for prayer. He called his disciples away to secluded beaches of the Mediterranean for rest. Jesus traveled among small-town synagogues in Nazareth and journeyed to Jerusalem for the international big-city exposure of the Temple.
Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee… Lk 4:14a(CEB)
I travel much farther to find mountains, desert, and seas. Central Illinois has none of these. Jesus walked from place to place. I walk after I’ve already arrived. I consider Sharon Chubbuck’s Sunday message- that God’s goal as teacher is to make us more like Jesus. What does that mean to me today, to you in the place where you are?
As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Mt 4:18-19(CEB)
When Jesus returned from the desert, he called others to join him. He did not remain alone. Integral to his calling was the invitation to come alongside, and for his disciples to gather others to join in. There is a rhythm to Jesus’ travels. Just as he navigates different landscapes, he alternates between time alone, among friends, at dinner parties, and with crowds. Each is important, and Jesus is in all of them.
For most of us, the call for home is a sweet one, and no less wild than the longing for solitude. Time alone enkindles life in the earth community. Rooted, p. 109
My time in the desert, my travels alone, fuel my calling to home, to serve in my community. May we, too, return in the power of the Spirit. May we have the courage to call companions to come alongside. May we take the skills we have learned in our work to gather others into the kingdom. May we become more like Jesus, wherever we walk today. -Renée