I had a hideaway when I was small. Actually… several. Places where the world was distant, I felt safe and had space to think and feel. The first I can remember was under a bridge. The second was a spot in some local woods. Others followed, but all had one thing in common — they were outside.
I was reminded of this when coming across the shelter pictured to the left. It was deep in the woods in a favourite dog-walking area. Someone has taken considerable effort to put it together. I know not what they use it for, be it innocent or nefarious, but I can relate to the need for a place of solitude.
Jesus would also relate. He went outside to 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.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). And he clearly was not standing just outside the back door, “Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”” (Mark 1:36–37 NIV11). The Bible makes it clear this was not a one-off, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15–16 NIV11).
Why is it important to get away and outside? I suggest at least two reasons:
- Seeing the Bigger Picture. Once outside our temporary material prisons (house, work, college etc.) we remember that God is about more than our small world. Trees older than buildings, birds singing more beautifully than pop divas, and stars shining more elegantly than streetlights remind us we have a creator God who sustains a universe of immense and unimaginable complexity. A glimpse of the big picture helps moderate our anxiety.
- Dissolving Distractions. Once outside we are no longer confronted with distractions. The chores, television schedule and email inbox are placed in proper perspective. Nothing is more important than connecting with the divine. Turn off the mobile phone — it will help your prayer life more than a visitation from Gabriel.
Jesus did not suffer from email overload or mobile phone mania. But he did have crowds of people insisting he heal and help them. If Jesus needed solitude so do we. He might not have had a shed in the woods, but he found somewhere safe where he could reconnect with the eternal. Why not make a date with a ‘shed in the woods’ for your next prayer time?