Rev. Jarrod Bartholomew
A few years ago I had the privilege of training for wilderness travel at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The training was intended to prepare me for several days of wilderness trekking, canoeing and portering with small groups. I would use these trips as training opportunities for leadership and spiritual growth.
My training lasted 10 days and there was no cell phone reception on seven of those days. On Wednesday, after four days in the wilderness, the trainer/guide pulled me aside and said to me, “Today is your solo day.”
He took me to a secluded area in a canoe and dropped me off for the day. No watch, no supplies other than water, but I did have a journal and my Bible. It turned out to be an eight-hour day with no tech. Just me, my Bible, and whatever animal trudges through the wilderness with me. It was amazing!
To be honest I wasn’t mentally or spiritually prepared for Solo Day. A lot had happened in my life back then, and stopping for eight hours to be alone in my thoughts, well, that’s not often a good thing.
I enjoy returning to this journal from time to time to read about my training and to remind myself of what was on my mind and heart at the time. I love (and this is the correct use of the word) nature.
But wouldn’t you know, that day there were lessons for me to learn…out in the wilderness…alone.
Perhaps these two lessons will be good memories for you as you finish 2022 and look forward to 2023. Just two lessons. They’re hard enough to learn and use.
Lesson number one: slow down and rest a bit.
For some of you reading this, it’s difficult to “disconnect” or “disconnect” from the world or your devices. However, there are numerous studies that encourage us to do so.
To be honest, I thought what we’ve been through in this nation and the world over the last few years would slow us down a bit. I thought it would possibly reset the culture a bit, but instead it seems to have done more to upset and upset us, even into a panicked state of life and living.
Well, we would never call this phase the “panic phase”. We are too sophisticated and egocentric to use those terms to describe it. We would call this phase “living as if the world were going to end”. We fill our days. We fill our schedules with our vacations, our dreams, our goals, our child/grandchild schedules, appointments, our plans and numerous curiosities.
In and of themselves, these aren’t bad things, but when they become the ultimate, we rest no longer. When they become ultimate things, they become idols, idols of our hearts.
And you better believe that free time can also be an idol. Suddenly we don’t have time to pray, time to read God’s Word, or time to share with others.
Add to this a diminished ability to minister to others, whether in a church or in the community, because we have filled our cups to overflowing with our own preparations. We seem a bit exhausted.
What if we slowed down? What if we got some rest? What if we have Sabbath? I’m not talking about a discussion of which day to worship God on. I mean slow down, rest and be disciplined to focus on what matters most.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: “The chief aim of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
How are you doing?
There was a time in Jesus’ life when he had taught, healed, and ministered for hours into the late evening hours.
Then Mark writes in 1:35, “And he got up very early in the morning, while it was still dark, and went away and went out into a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
He took a solo day. Later, the apostles had ministered in full force, and Jesus said to them in Mark 6:31, “Come alone into a desolate place, and rest a while.”
Are you tired? spent? crazy? Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your soul.”
Lesson number two: trust the Lord because He is in control.
This lesson is a booger to learn. On a desolate stretch of coast in the wilderness of Canada, I have struggled long and hard with this lesson. At the time, I was really mad at God.
can i say that Secure! God already knew and He could handle my tirades. Some things in my life seemed out of control and I struggled to believe that God is good all of the time. But to believe otherwise, well, that would actually be unbelief.
So I wrestled. I worked it out with him while spending my solo day. Proverbs 3:5,6 can become so trusted that it may lose its luster and value, but it will never lose its truthfulness.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own reason. Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will smooth your way.”
You may be wondering, “Where do I begin?” The psalmist gives you a starting point: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
You must spend time in His Word. It will prove a few things: you either trust God or you don’t; Either you trust His Word or you don’t.
Proverbs 30:5 says: “Every word of God is proved true. He is a shield to those who seek refuge in him.”
“Yes, but look at all the bad things that are happening and suffering in the world! How can God be in control?”
Easy. Everything is headed toward His everlasting kingdom and glory. According to Proverbs 21:1 even “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord like the rivers of water; He turns it where He wills.”
When we’re in the midst of it, when we’re in chaos because of the broken, sinful world we live in or because of our own brokenness and sinfulness, we can trust God.
Christian, God’s promise was true when it was written, it is true today, and because God’s word endures forever, it will be true for eternity. God promises this: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
do you trust him do you trust his word
I will never forget that day in the wilderness of Canada. In fact, I now consciously schedule four solo days a year. These two lessons can be two of the most difficult lessons to learn. In fact, these lessons can be lifesavers.
What I mean? I mean, these can be lessons that we need to learn daily for the rest of our lives and apply moment to moment. Look to the end of 2022 and think about 2023. Need a Solo Day?
A solo day is not a wasted day, or a day in bed, or a day at the beach. Actually, it could be a day at the beach, but not with a good book. Actually, it could be a day at the beach with your best book, God’s Word, and a notepad/journal. Find a “desolate” place. Read the Bible. Pray.
At first it might be one of the most awkward things you’ve ever done, but the more solo days you have, the better you get at it.
Here are some quick pointers: Solo days are not days off to do a honey-do list. This list has been on the fridge for a year. It will be there when you come back. A Solo tag isn’t an “away from the kids” tag, although that might be a little bonus gift. Solo days are not pampering days.
Solo days may be in a stand of trees, but instead of hunting, you’re spending time alone with God and His Word. Solo days are intentional. I hope you will try it once. I’d love to hear about your experiences: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pastor Jarrod Bartholomew at the Pontiac Bible Church in Pontiac