Behind the small subdivision where I live is a large plot of undeveloped land. I am guessing it is about ten acres or so. “The woods” – as my children and their friends call it – is covered with native trees and grasses thick enough to create a rather picturesque forest-oasis right behind our house. There’s even a small stream that runs through it.
I would imagine that some day somebody will buy the property and turn it into lots for homes. I just hope it isn’t anytime soon. My dog will be really put out when they do.
I often take our dog, Copper, on a walk back in “the woods” so she can run around without being on a leash. I am pretty sure there isn’t a square inch in the entire ten acres that she has sniffed or “christened.” She loves “the woods.” Quite frequently we happen upon the ubiquitous deer that roam our neighborhood. She remains convinced that some day she is going to catch one of them. I think all she wants to do is to play. She enthusiastically barrels toward them like an excited child welcoming a new playmate to the neighborhood. Evidently, they don’t quite understand her intentions. They’ve never stayed around long enough to make her acquaintance.
So the other day I was walking Copper out in the woods and I found a discarded chair. Not really sure how it got there of course. I imagine some of the kids in the neighborhood dragged it out there as part of some elaborate plan to furnish their new fort.
The chair was in pretty good shape. A little beat up. Something had gnawed off the top of its back. I imagine somebody’s new puppy had cut its teeth on their patio furniture and it was relegated to that place in the garage where little boys go to find furniture for the fort they are building in the woods behind their house.
So I set the chair right side up and sat down on it there in the middle of the woods while I waited for Copper to snag her deer. At first, it felt a little awkward sitting there in the woods on a chair. When you’re out in the woods, sitting is usually reserved for rocks and fallen tree trunks. I kept thinking of what somebody might think if they happened upon a man sitting in a chair in the middle of the woods.
Eventually, my concerns drifted away and I found myself quite content sitting there on my new chair basking in the sun. While I watched Copper dart from smell to smell, I began to develop a bit of a fondness for the uniqueness of the situation. The longer I sat there the more it dawned on me that there were no computers, no telephones, no appointments and no interruptions out in the woods. There was just plenty of warm sunshine and peaceful stillness where I could just sit and think, pray, create, imagine, dream, solve, compose and a host of other words for things it seems I never have enough time to do.
I began to think I just might have found my new office.
Perhaps better yet, I might have just found “my” place of solitude; my Mount of Olives. While I sat there on my chair in the woods, I was reminded that Jesus made it a priority to find places of solitude where he could pray.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus withdrew often.
Jesus withdrew often to lonely places.
Jesus withdrew often to lonely places to pray.
Sitting there in the stillness really caused me to stop and think about the place and priority of prayer in my life. Too often, I think I am guilty of praying on the run; squeezing in conversations with my Heavenly Father amidst the hundred other things I have to get done in a day. Not that there is anything wrong with praying as you go about your day. I think, however, praying on the run is a hollow substitute for time set apart JUST to pray. Praying on the go for long periods of time ultimately leaves us depleted of the renewal that comes from spending time alone with our Heavenly Father.
I would imagine God doesn’t particularly appreciate feeling like we will squeeze Him into our busy schedule when we get a few extra minutes while we drive in the car or patiently wait for our turn at the ATM. Which one of our marriages would tolerate that kind of neglect? Why then, should our Heavenly Father, the King of kings and Lord of lords?
Where’s your place of solitude and how long has it been since you’ve been there?
(WARNING: Remember that story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Let me just say you best not come poking around the woods near my house looking for your place of solitude. If I find you sitting in my chair, you and I are going to “have words” – as they say here in Texas.)