1. being alone; without company or accompaniment; solitary; unaccompanied
I've lately been pondering the value of pursuing life with less accompaniment than I've had in the past. This was brought into focus about ten days ago when it was time to turn in A's lottery application for the academic magnet middle school. If your child is enrolled in a school, the principal simply initials your form saying that your child has the required test scores and continues to do well in school. But if you home school, you need to provide six assignments and the accompanying work in the four core areas of language arts, social studies, math and science and your child has to take an on-site writing assessment. This is fine. Except that I didn't know anything about it. So I hadn't been keeping records that enabled me to easily pull this data together. As a matter of fact, when A takes a math test, I grade it and recycle it. Oops. Perhaps I should alter that practice.
This unpleasant surprise was a bit stressful. But I found I didn't truly panic. I simply got to work and pulled together a packet that frankly left me feeling affirmed that A has learned a lot so far this year. As I drove to make copies of the work in order to submit our packet, I was praying that what I was turning in would be sufficient. And it occurred to me that one reason I didn't panic was that instead of turning to a friend, I turned to God. Instead of picking up the phone and commiserating about how crazy it was that I didn't know about this requirement, I simply sought some inner peace and then did what I could do. And I think maybe finding that inner peace was easier in solitude than in community.
Preparing my heart for Advent has felt like a solitary practice this season, even as I have practiced it in community. Even as I have read passages from the Celtic Book of Prayer and known that they are being read by others around the world, I have felt it as a lone practice. As I've studied Advent symbols and verses with A in our unit study, I have felt this in a deeply personal and unaccompanied manner. While attending church or reading the daily office, I am still doing so from a deeply private place. And I think this must be the way, the only way perhaps, to truly experience Advent.
Because if Advent is the season of anticipation - and it is that, above all - anticipation is a solitary emotion, even when shared with the broader community. If we are to spend Advent celebrating one arrival (Christ's birth) and awaiting another (His return), then some part of our hearts must do this in solitude. Because while he will greet us communally, it is individually that we must ready our hearts for him.
One night this week, I sat in a friend's car talking with her about her friendships and how they've evolved recently. This friend and I are in different seasons of life, but have some similar circumstances. We've both seen a shift in the climate of our friendships as we've changed jobs, left schools or moved to a new faith community. Days before my talk with this friend, my husband urged me to go out with friends more often. At the time, I tearfully replied, "With who?!" But I've made some efforts in the days since then. I've had some successes. And I've grown more and more thankful for this season of my life. This season with more solitude, less community, more quiet, less raucous laughter.
I am thankful for this lone season - of Advent and life. But Sunday's sermon reminded me that while Advent may be a season prepared for in solitude, it is one to be lived and shared with others. If I am to be Isaiah - if I am to say, "Send me! Send me to comfort, to exhort, to direct, to remind others of God's faithfulness," then I must first listen in the quiet of my heart for where God will send me, who he would have me speak to and what he would have me say. And if the cacophony of community - even faithful community - drowns out that voice, then I will gladly walk a stretch of road alone in order to have my God beside me, whispering in my ear.