Time to Be Alone

“And he said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).
One of the most difficult things for me to get used to in South Asia is the constant presence of people — “people, people, everywhere.” It only makes sense when you consider that the Indian sub-continent is home to more than one-sixth of the world’s population, nearly one and one half billion people. A close look at a map will also disclose that the land area sustaining that population is not really that big. There is no such thing as “personal space” here. There is simply not enough room to go around, so people have adjusted. Privacy is not expected, and rarely possible. One can get used to people always staring; it merely takes a little time.
Though we are able to adjust, however, privacy is still a human need and desire. The Bible recognizes its value. Jesus invited his disciples to go with him to a quiet spot in the wilderness after they returned from their teaching mission to the villages of Israel. They needed rest, and some seclusion would help that. The fact that such rest was denied by the persistence of the multitudes that were anxious to hear Jesus does not change the fact that it was desirable.
God instructs us, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). This is typically understood to mean that God can be approached and perceived well in peaceful contemplation. This may be as close as the Bible comes to teaching the Eastern art of meditation. Some things are best understood and appreciated if we have privacy and time to think about them. Certainly our duties to God, and his nature and love for us, are counted among those things.
Yet privacy is not to be sought at all costs. It is desirable, but not essential. When Jesus sought rest for his disciples, the crowds followed and disrupted them. The Lord did not rebuke the people, nor did he refuse to teach or minister to them. He met their needs without complaining, nor did his disciples complain. We have a need and legitimate desire for personal time and space. However, the needs of others may preclude our attaining them. Let us seek privacy and quiet time appropriately, use them wisely when available, but be willing to surrender to greater imperatives when they arise.
Still another application of these thoughts is that we must remember to be considerate of others, granting to them the right to privacy. We often insist on our own space, but deny the same to others. Their privacy is not important to us. Far better that they be available to talk with us, provide for us, and answer to our whims. That is not only unreasonable, it is contrary to the principle of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12). Our family, friends, and neighbors need time to be alone (and perhaps “know God”) just as we do. Let us be sensitive to their needs and value their privacy, just as we wish them to value ours.

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