Solitude, The Absence of the Horizontal

Solitude is an absence of the horizontal. No friend to console or population to reach out to. The only mission is inward and the only relationship is upward. And then, of course, there is downward. Downward by kneeling and rooting ourselves in reconciliation with creation itself. In a missional existence, solitude is that fleeting reality which community and mission tend to crowd out, even for the best of reasons. In an urban existence communing with nature takes disciplined intentionality if one is to see through the concrete, bricks, mortar and trim.

Recently I had a chance to go to the woods. I was with friends and yet at a few points in the weekend, I got to be alone. Overwhelmed by the flora and fauna and their onslaught from all sides, how could I resist? Embracing creation came naturally, naturally. Then as I go inward, as well, there are affections and questions directed upward. This is the Sabbath that was created for man. It was, to me, like taking medicine and getting a bit better.

Even in solitude I remember my relationships and I long for them too; to have this kind of awe. It's awesome in the truest sense. I would give it to others as a gift if I could. I can't. But it seems it is being offered all the time like an open door, an invitation, or an often unopened gift. As I remember my friends, I can't help but think of the struggling friends who have no place to lay there head, or the struggling mother working two jobs to barely keep her little family fed, or those for whom the city streets are all there is. Getting away, retreating for a time to a more inward and upward setting is but an unaffordable luxury. In my solitude that weekend I was wooed and compelled by the very fact of being alone in nature. I recognize the gift that it is and I also mourn the fact that this medicine, this seeming necessity for the health of an urban dwelling and horizontally minded being, is an unaffordable luxury to so many. It is a privilege to be able to connect with self, nature, and the creator in solitude. It is also, sadly, in our world, most accessible and available to the privileged. And most of the time, in our privilege, we avoid the inward, we neglect the upward, and we flee from solitude, describing it as loneliness. And so in the end very few city dwellers, missionaries, or those embedded in their community retreat into natures compelling pronunciation.

There are also those who live in this solitude, living upward and downward lives, with little to any horizontal relationships to speak of. This is the life with a different kind of poverty, without real and intimate community, real mission and purpose. We need all of these dimensions and many of us remain 2 dimensional though created for 3 dimensional existence.

I thank God for this retreat and reminder.

We pray for those missing out on solitude.
Lord have mercy.We pray for those who are missing out on community.
Lord have mercy.We pray for those who are missing out on mission.
Lord have mercy.

Solitude is the absence of the horizontal. To some of us that is a promise of rest; to some of us that is a sharp correction for having neglected the horizontal while living lives of vertical solitude.


  1. You're very right in this post, so much it overwhelms me... As I'm sitting here at lunch, the only time I get any sort of freedom in thought and connection on many levels, I feel I have to shove it all into that same box in my heart for it to wait because my time is already ending. Sometimes I wish I could share more, and have more of a horizontal aspect to my, and Mom's life, but it seems almost impossible at times. Yet I hold a little hope, because that's who Jesus is and offers endlessly. Either way, I am thankful for you, friend.


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