Today's lectionary reading: Acts 1:1-11 ; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Passage selected for reflection: Ephesians 1:15-23 (NIV)
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
When I read this passage, I can imagine Paul, in Rome, imprisoned. He is in the midst of what was likely a very lonely time, and yet his love for, and encouragement to, God’s people is unrepressed. Quite likely Paul was not alone, he was perhaps surrounded by other prisoners, but the proximity of others does not remove the quality of aloneness.
Though many of us are not alone, we are surrounded perhaps by children, or a spouse, a partner, perhaps friends or a pod, and yet, loneliness is still a quality that can be experienced despite proximity to others. In addition, during this pandemic, many of us are in fact completely alone. The image of Paul in prison also resonates with the countless individuals, over the last year, existing in isolation, fear, grief, confusion, overwhelm and anxiety. We have collectively, globally, been called to isolate, to cut ourselves off from the familiar encouragement and love that many of us have been accustomed to. In the midst of this current chaos, like Paul in prison, there is a certain loneliness of spirit that can take hold; it forces us to reflect more deeply and pause. This kind of loneliness can seep into our souls and can dampen our faith, but if we can reframe it as solitude, and imagine our universal connection through prayer, this season of aloneness can be transformed.
There can be a fine line, but it exists nonetheless, between loneliness and solitude. Perhaps, in what appeared to be loneliness, Paul found solitude. That quality of aloneness that does not feel lonely. Solitude could be the space for many that enables deep and profound reflection, an opportunity to take stalk, and then, coming through and out of our solitude more equipped, though perhaps physically we went nowhere at all.
Paul reaches out of his solitude through reflection and prayer. First, his solitude allows him time for reflection. This reflection is something we can all benefit from. Time to look inward, to understand who we are, both the wonderful and the weary. We have to look with intention at our own hearts, our lives, and see where we need to mend, where we have been operating in a way that is not optimal. We “open the eyes of ourt heart” and take the opportunity with opened eyes to see where we have been inhibiting the Spirit of God within us.
From this place of deep personal reflection we can emerge from our solitude better: better for ourselves, but also better for the world. Through radical self reflection we can invite God to help us heal, and become a closer version to the one He imagines us to be. As we become more aligned with God’s vision for us, we are better equipped to help those around us. Finally, Paul’s prayer transcends his experience and hopes to encourage those he wishes he could be nearer to. He prays for those he loves to embrace that power of the spirit which God has shared with those who know Him. That prayer, to connect with the spirit, is what joins us collectively.
As the Lenten and Easter Seasons come to a close, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. This is a celebration of the time when, after accomplishing all He was sent to do on earth, Jesus ascends to his place at the right hand of the Father. We, humanity, are left alone. However, we celebrate the aloneness that is not lonely, the aloneness that invites radical self reflection, empowered through the Holy Spirit, that the eyes our heart may be opened through solitude. From that place of solitude and reflection we can emerge through prayer because it reminds us of what binds us together: Our common Father, the Holy Spirit which Jesus died to share with us, and the celebration of Jesus Risen and Ascended.
Has this last year been a season of loneliness or solitude? Can you frame it in terms of solitude and use this time of solitude for radical self reflection? Can the eyes of your heart be opened to the call that God has on your life? Can you heal a broken part that, once healed will allow you to reach out to others through prayer, or even through action?
What encouragement can you offer yourself? Your loved ones that you’ve not been able to see?
Father God, I pray for all of the people enduring this season of loneliness. I pray that we could all find the opportunity to reframe our experience of loneliness to a space of solitude, and that in the midst of our solitude we can connect to ourselves through self reflection, and then, when we are ready with others through prayer and encouragement. Amen.
About the Author
Jennifer Leavitt-Moy is a mother, wife and encourager to those around her. She has been living in Montreal, Quebec for a year, but otherwise hails from the Midwest: Madison, WI or Chicago, IL depending on the year. She has three sons, Phoenix, Justice and Lorenzo. She has had an eclectic career and is currently working with her husband, Roberto Rivera, in a nonprofit.