by Hannah Nelson, Kids Minister
I am an extrovert. If you were to find me at a party, I would be the loud one cracking the jokes, meeting new people, asking questions and listening to stories, and loving every minute! It’s true, I get energy from being around people, and it’s difficult for me to enjoy time on my own.
Several years ago, Scott and I were just a couple of days away from heading out with the church youth group to a conference in Tennessee. We had dropped off our kids with their grandparents, arranged a dog-sitter, and all that was left was to pack our bags to leave the next morning for the airport. The morning before our flight, I woke up coughing with body aches, chills, and a terrible fever. I drove myself to the Urgent Care center, hoping that my symptoms would add up only to a minor illness, so I could be on my way to board the plane the next morning. No such luck…I had come down with the infamous “swine flu”. The doctor ordered me some anti-viral medication, gave me instructions to rest and hydrate, advised me to cancel my travel plans, and sent me on my way.
Early the next morning, my husband grabbed his bags and joined the youth group kids on their flight across the U.S., without me. To put it mildly, I was bummed! My kids weren’t home, my husband wasn’t home, it was just me and my dog. Oh, did I mention that it was just the start of 10 days alone?! I was so sick throughout those 10 days (by day 5 I also had pneumonia), that friends who brought over chicken soup or other meals would drop off the food on my doorstep, ring the bell, then retreat to their cars so that I wouldn’t share my swine flu germs with them. My elderly neighbor, who couldn’t risk infection, would call me every day to make sure I was “alive”. Even my dog eventually stopped cuddling with me on the couch. I was so very alone, and lonely.
I would love to say that in those 10 days I had a spiritual breakthrough, that in the midst of my sorrow and self-pity I found peace in the silence, that I found joy in the solitude.
That. Did. Not. Happen.
In reality, I was miserable. Miserable because I was sick, miserable because I missed my family, miserable because we didn’t have cable TV, miserable because I was an extrovert banned to isolation, miserable because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see the gift that God had given to me. If I had had what I wanted (my kids and husband to be home to take care of me and baby me), then it would have been more likely than not that the rest of the family would have caught my same illness. But, instead, they were away from the house during the course of my contagious period. God allowed my family to avoid exposure and still enjoy their 10 days away.
That was ten years ago, and I am still learning how to appreciate alone time. I can look back now and see how I had the opportunity to really spend time with God, with no one distracting me. It’s a monthly, weekly, daily challenge for me to welcome quiet time with God, or time alone with out distraction. The extrovert in me is still alive and well, and often very loud! But God is constantly offering me chances to get quiet with Him. I am striving each day to take advantage of those times, and I am learning to look forward to my time alone. God can speak to me in ways that I would not otherwise hear if I allowed myself a break from the “noise” of life. Recently God gifted me one of those days. As I was resting beside the river in Yosemite Valley, my kids were busy with each other, I felt God nudge me to embrace the silence and spend some time with Him. It was a beautiful, serene, restful time with God. I am learning to hear Him in the silence and solitude. I look forward to the day when I will be eager to enter into silence.
Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.