The picture on the cover reminds me of one of my most cherished memories. I was in Vallecito Canyon in Colorado. For several years I had been struggling with the scientific evidence for the existence of God from an atheistic standpoint. Prior to that time I had been an active atheist loudly proclaiming that no intelligent person could believe in God, and that the Bible was a bunch of myths and fairy tales that no educated person could possibly believe. I had taught myself some Hebrew and started through the Bible to prove it wrong, and I had taken pride in how tough I was and how I could argue down any street preacher who claimed to be a Christian. I was a “big man” on campus and a lot of people knew me and knew I could handle the foolishness of religion.

In spite of all of that notoriety and self confidence, I was not a happy person. Being in the limelight all the time had a price, and in spite of my arrogance and put-on airs I knew deep down inside that there were questions that I could not answer that in the hands of a skilled and knowledgeable Christian could destroy my position. I had come to Colorado to get away from all of that. I hiked up the canyon and climbed down the side of a box canyon very much like the one in the picture. When I got to the bottom there was a beautiful, crystal-clear stream, a large waterfall that made enough noise to muffle all other sounds, and walls on all sides of me that guaranteed that no one would interfere with my solitude. I had nothing to prove, nobody to try to outsmart, nothing to gain, and nothing to break my train of thought. It was just me and the beauty and power of nature.

I had no mystical experience, no voice out of the wind, no vision, and no religious experience as such. The solitude I experienced however, gave me a chance to see that I was not God, and my life as it existed at the time was meaningless. The guiding principle of “survival of the fittest” that I had built my life on was fruitless and brought nothing of value to me, to my relationships, or to my attempts to make life meaningful.

If you look carefully at the picture, you will notice that there are two figures in the center near the waterfalls--and one is apparently a child. Some of my favorite memories of special times with my children have been times when we were like the two figures in the picture, isolated in solitude with no one else to worry about and nothing to focus on but each other. My favorite memories of my two daughters are times like that—fishing with my daughter Cathy on a beaver dam in Colorado, climbing the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque and camping on Saganaga Lake (Minnesota/Ontario border) with my daughter Wendy. One of my fondest memories of my wife is sitting in front of the picture window and watching the snow swirl outside our home when we were snowed in and everything was shut down due to a blizzard.

Solitude is important, and too many times we have to be forced to take advantage of it. Jesus was led by the Spirit into a place of solitude (Luke 4). It is interesting that after 40 days and at the end of that period the Bible says the devil left him for a time. Satan knows that if we get away from his agents and the devices that tempt and influence us, we will draw closer to God. Luke tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). We know that the apostles also practiced retreating to solitude. In Acts 10:9 and Revelation 1:10 Peter and John seemed to have been isolated from the others and in that solitude received visions that altered them and the Church.

Retreating to solitude is not something we do expecting some kind of divine revelation that overpowers us. Rather, being in solitude from time to time gives us a chance to look at our priorities, focus on our blessings, and look at why we believe what we believe and do what we do. Do not neglect solitude--it will be a blessing for you.
--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug09.