I don’t travel a lot, but when I do, one of my favorite parts of the trip is the hotel room.
Do you remember that scene in Die Hard when the guy on the plane tells Bruce Willis that when he gets to his hotel room, he should take off his shoes and feel the carpet with his bare feet? I do that. In spite of my fear of germs and other gross things, I take off my shoes in hotel rooms.
The hotel room is a place of refuge—a place of peace and comfort. No matter where or why I am traveling, in those moments the hotel room is the one space in the universe that is mine. In any city in the world, the hotel room can become like a fortress of solitude.
I enjoy solitude. I wouldn’t want to live on a deserted island or anything, but I like the peace of being by myself. It feels like a mental vacation.
I wrote yesterday about how sometimes I can overindulge in solitude at the expense of relationships. I understand that this is the dark side of solitude. However, I believe that a little bit of solitude is good for the soul.
In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this:
“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community… You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out” (p. 77).
Bonhoeffer’s assertion is that we can truly benefit from the company of others only when we have learned to live with ourselves in solitude. In other words, brief periods of solitude can actually teach us how to better live in community.
In solitude, every thought can be a prayer; every idea can be a revelation from God.
In solitude, our minds become clearer, and our breathing can return to a normal pace.
Like community, solitude can be a gift, and, also like community, it can be overused or it can be neglected entirely.
The key is to understand ourselves enough to know that there are times when we must retreat, and there are times when we must surround ourselves with other people.
Like community, solitude is a gift.
May we receive it and learn to see ourselves and God in new kinds of ways. May we rub our bare feet on the carpet of an empty room, prepared to ask, “What will this moment of solitude teach me about reality?”
Are you comfortable in solitude? Why do you think so many people resist being alone?