“And I said, ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then I would fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.’ ” Psalm 55:6-7
David was intimidated and beleaguered by his enemies when he wrote this plaintive Psalm. Yet those of us who love solitude, and seek it with a passion, can echo the words: “For then I would fly away and be at rest.”
Numerous are the critics of the Kaufman family who set off with a baby and a toddler on a 30-something foot sailing vessel, with the goal of crossing the Pacific. But for the response of the U. S. Navy in San Diego and other rescuers, this family might be added to the endless list of tragic current events. Yet I love the name of their craft, REBEL HEART, and something innate draws me to this family. Although life-threatening adventure has never been my forté, a passion for solitude is an integral factor in my DNA. I identify with the need to “wander off”—even when country roads, inland waters, and forest trails are more in line with my instincts than the Pacific Ocean.
When I grew up in the 30s and 40s, solitude was easily accessible. We had a quiet household, and I could always hide under a chair or, by the time I was 8 years old, in a tree. Our only “devices” were: a telephone, a radio (in a cabinet with a phonograph record player), a doorbell, and a clock which did nothing more than tell the time. The understanding that every individual on earth needed space and time “to wander off” was a given in our home, and we respected each other’s privacy.
Today I wonder how many younger people (with the exception of a few individualistic types like the Kaufmans) even begin to comprehend what solitude actually is, let alone want to pursue it. An astonishing amount of everyday life is social, groupy, organized, and pre-planned—frequently controlled by the detached stroke of a finger on a device.
I see people striding the park path outside our front door, with eyes and ears (or both) literally glued to whatever device at hand. Do they hear the mourning dove in the bush, or the sand hill cranes yodeling overhead in the clouds? Do they see the fat, pregnant buds on the chestnut tree a few feet from the path? When May wafts in, will the device-laden striders even bother to inhale and exclaim over the perfume of the French lilacs which abound in our neighborhood? Will the device-embellished ears be able (or even want!) to hear the fountain in our local pond, or the redwings nesting in the reeds beside our local lake?
Our park path is lovely, bordered by a nature preserve on the east side. It deserves strollers, as well as striders—some of whom may be hustling along for the sake of good health. Strollers like me also walk for health—soul health, which I happen to think is even more vital (and certainly more eternally valuable) than the beneficial aspect of body maintenance. Yet the majority of park users stride rather than stroll.
I often wonder what the present generation of activity-driven, device-dependent, socially-oriented individuals will do when they add a few years and the inevitable stresses of life to their résumés of non-stop everything—everything but substance for soul and spirit, that is. I visualize that an indescribable dryness will set in—a thirst which no material goods, or frenzy for social contacts and career advancements, will ever quench in a million years.
DRY, DRY, DRY! The absence of everything but perhaps a desire to “wander off”—without even beginning to fathom how that may be done! No turned upside down chair to hide under. No metaphorical tree. No hypothetical REBEL HEART sailboat. A park path perhaps, but not even the foggiest knowledge of how to stroll rather than stride on the path, with all ones senses attuned to the beautiful nature along the way.
Off course the only lasting cure for dryness, driven-ness, and people-produced burn-out is to drink deeply from the well-spring of LIVING WATER in Christ Jesus—to accept His sacrifice for our sin at Calvary and rejoice in His Risen Life which indwells those of us who trust in Him. He provides a depth of inner solitude wherever we are. That solitude is fed by removing ourselves whenever we can—from the crowd, from our electronic devices and our daily agendas.
And that solitude is fed by whatever kind of retreat appeals to whomever we are—be the escape a turned over chair, a tree, a forest trail, a park path, or a sailing vessel.
I’m thankful for the Kaufman family—for the fact that they have returned safely. I pray that their sick little one will continue to heal with no complications. And I’m thankful for the Kaufmans’ reminder of something important: a passion for solitude. Although my preferences run to forest trails, the rivers and lakes of Wisconsin, and the path around our neighborhood park, I thoroughly track with concept behind the REBEL HEART!
Margaret L. Been, April 2014
NOTE: Awhile back, a Christian friend described me to a group we were in together, with these words: “Look at her. She has REBEL written all over her.”
We all laughed, realizing that my personal rebellions have nothing to do with any kind of anarchy. I will never challenge or rebel against my life-enhancing Judeo-Christian values. But yes, I do have a rebel heart. Perhaps I’ll share more of that with you in an future entry.
Or maybe I don’t need to share. Perhaps, in the 5 and 1/2 years I’ve been blogging you’ve discerned exactly what I mean by my rebel heart!