When this happened, I did not rush out to consult a little with any human being. 17Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus. 18Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter and I stayed with him for fifteen days. 19The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. Galatians 1:17-19
The Apostle Paul lists as part of his qualifications three years of isolation with the Holy Spirit. This was a man who prior to his conversion was surrounded by accolades, crowds and those joining him on his holy Crusade to rid the world of Christians. After meeting Ananias on Straight St. and having his eyes opened to him he went away with the Lord. For three years he came to know personally the One he had been persecuting. This purposeful isolation led to a purpose-filled intimacy with Jesus that would take him through all the trials that he would endure to share the true Good News of Jesus. He doesn’t describe this time simply to speak to his spiritual appointment from Christ but to also set a pattern for the people of Galatia. The reason so many were being led astray is that they didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus and were therefore letting other teachers hear God for them. When we don’t have intimacy with Holy Spirit we will be influenced by false spirits. When we don’t know the God behind the Good News then we will buy into any news that sounds true. This kind of intimacy cannot happen outside of isolation.
Isolation has long been a spiritual discipline that I am not disciplined in. I love being around people and in the middle of the action. So, when I came down with an unknown illness last week and found myself quarantined to my room for a week I was sure that I was going to go crazy. This forced silence and solitude was exactly what my soul needed I just didn’t know it. As my body fought off an infection of bacteria my spirit fought off the infection of busyness. I was alone and couldn’t talk to anyone but God and it turns out that this was exactly what the doctor ordered. I found myself in tears in the presence of my Savior as I repented for being busy for Him but not actually being alone with Him. Thomas Merton describes the importance of this discipline in this way: “Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting. For he cannot go on happily for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul. If man is constantly exiled from his own home, locked out of his own spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person. He no longer lives as a man.” I love what I do. I love who I get to do it with. But, I need to love His presence more then any of these other good things or I’ll miss the whole reason He came to die for me- which was to spend time with me both now and for eternity.
Thank You Jesus for curing me of bodily sickness but also of soul sickness that comes through sheer busyness. I’m reminded of when I was young and so hungry for Your presence that I would spend hours in Your presence in prayer. Revive this childlike passion for your presence as I refuse to accept any substitute. It’s so easy to run to trusted friends for advice and wisdom before running to You. Yet, it’s in waiting on You in isolation that all the facades are stripped away and who I am in you is revealed once more.