“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
I was rereading this scripture the other day and it caused me to wonder just how do we find rest for our souls? Since the early days of the pandemic, increasing stress and anxiety have gradually worn some of us away as we experienced extended solitude, isolation, and loneliness. This has been true especially for those who live alone. Work and social routines have been interrupted, have become virtual or remote, and physical connections limited to what can happen sitting or standing six feet apart. Masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes are the new necessities, at the top of every shopping list.
How do we experience solitude, isolation and loneliness? For some it is a ‘me’ time, a time to recharge our batteries, of renewing our inner being. Not so for some for whom it increases fear and anxiety, a sense of helplessness and struggle. For all of us it can be a time of grace and challenge. I think solitude differs from loneliness. When we are lonely, we become acutely aware of our own separation from others. But solitude can be one of the most precious things in the human spirit. Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton discovered for himself that “when solitude was a problem, I had no solitude. When it ceased to be a problem I found I already possessed it and could have possessed it all along. In its deep peace we find God.”
Yes some would see solitude as an encounter with the divine, a place within where there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which we can retreat at any time. We cannot always seek outside ourselves for that which we can only find within and there are some gifts which we can only give to ourselves. Perhaps God has circled a place on a map for us and it is where we are right now. Finding rest for our souls is to recognize that we are where we’re supposed to be and it’s holy ground.
Rev. Lorrie Skinner