Solitude is a state of mind, not merely the absence of noise, and it forms a fitting backdrop for recognizing and connecting with Almighty God. Just last week my wife summoned me to our back porch in order to witness the spectacle of a swarm of migrating hummingbirds, a myriad of Ruby Throated and Black Chins, diving and dueling, making quite a clatter in the process. Jo and I understood that we had just been granted ringside seats to a rare and powerful display, and in that moment solitude ran rampant over us as we witnessed the handiwork of God. Anyone who stands out-of-doors long enough after sunset encounters the night symphony of the Creator. Nature does not make noise; nature produces music. Insomniac insects fill the night with music and there is a primal rhythm to it. Each scratch or thrush or squeal or hum is not out of place. In fact, such nocturnal sounds define life as consistent, patterned, purposeful. God is speaking if we take the time to listen.
Solitude, then, is the attitude of heart that allows space to discern the Creator, and, in time, ourselves. A great example is as near as a discerning look at the Old Testament. I like the way Barbara Brown Taylor supposes Moses’s two-fold discovery:
“Moses’s life changed one day while he was tending his father- in-law’s sheep. According to the storyteller, he had led the flock beyond the wilderness to Horeb, the mountain of God, when an angel of God appeared to him in a burning bush…. The bush required Moses to take a time-out, at least if he wanted to do more than glance at it. He could have done that. He could have seen the flash of red out of the corner of his eye, said, ‘Oh, how pretty,’ and kept right on driving the sheep. He did not know that it was an angel in the bush, after all. Only the storyteller knew that. Moses could have decided that he would come back tomorrow to see if the bush was still burning, when he had a little more time, only then he would not have been Moses. He would just have been a guy who got away with murder, without ever discovering what else his life might have been about” (Barbara Brown Taylor, “An Altar in the World”).
“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’ And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Moses, Moses.’ And he said, ‘Here am I.'”(Exodus 3:1-4, KJV)