In thinking about solitude, I wondered what the role of solitude has in the life of Christians.
I thought of how clear it is to hear from God and see the things He shows us in solitude. I thought of how busy our lives are and how we are so distracted by our interaction with the world we live in, and how we need to stay in solitude to keep balanced. Henri Nouwen says in his book “Making All Things New”, “without solitude, it’s virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.” Jesus life is an example of one in solitude, both in choosing an outward time and place of quietness, but also in living His daily life in solitude.
I thought of how we find life in revelation from God, and when we leave the place of solitude, to go about our daily lives, we must not allow solitude to leave us. We stay in our place of solitude even though we are out and about.
Not only is solitude a spiritual place, it’s really only found by withdrawing and being alone physically. In solitude we come into the presence of God naked and vulnerable with nothing to show, prove or defend. I think in the beginning, one can only find solitude by being alone, facing and working through the loneliness. But, when solitude is truly found, then loneliness is not so painful as it once was.
The biggest obstacle in finding solitude is choosing to enter into the pain of being alone and lonely. To choose to be alone, when all around you are enjoying good fellowship with friends is not something many people would even think of doing. Why would they? We don’t like pain, and look for any way to escape and get busy again. Going into solitude only removes our outer distractions. When alone without books to read, TV to watch, people to talk with and phone calls to make, it brings us face to face with our inner chaos, and that can be disturbing and confusing. Our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, unresolved feelings of anger and conflicts manifest themselves fully, and we discover our outer distractions were very useful in shielding us from our inner noises.
We set up outer boundaries to protect ourselves; our time, who we spend it with, what we do and don’t do. When we resolve to enter solitude, we must also set up inner boundaries to protect and keep sidetracking thoughts from distracting our inner solitude. Faithfulness is very important in developing solitude, and eventually we discover we don’t want to miss that time alone with God, and we find ourselves missing it when it is absent. We then discover we value it more, and begin to choose it over things we used to do which were once of high value.
Solitude and the treasures found within are real and tangible only to those who have found it. Trying to explain it is not easily done.
If I were to tell someone, whose life is happy, busy and filled with good friends, to choose to be alone until it becomes painful, to press through the terrible depth and pain of loneliness until they break through into a wonderful, deeply satisfying place, they would think I was nuts.
They would question me about that “wonderful” place – what will they find? I could only answer; a life-giving quality only they can identify once they find it. I could tell them I know it’s feeling to me, but that it’s different for everyone. Nouwen says that is where we begin to taste the beginning of joy and peace.
With such ambiguous answers, would any choose to pursue solitude? How could I describe it to anyone so they could catch a glimpse enough to whet their appetite for it? Would that illusive explanation be enough to keep them through the sometimes long but always painful struggle to get there? Or, during the pain, would they want to quit and find relief by going out, and doing anything just so they aren’t alone? And, should they leave, such a choice will only alleviate the momentary discomfort and prolong the journey. Oh yes, in that explanation, would I tell them that once the journey is begun, they can’t turn back, get out or stop? It’s a simple, though not easy way to free us from being slaves to our preoccupations.
Who would even begin such a journey as this?
It promises pain and agony with a reward of some illusive quality or state that only they will know when they’ve found it.
Today people want absolutes, sure answers and guarantees. Such things as trusting by faith, is what Christians hear and read about, but choosing a painful journey without proof of finding anything tangible is still a foreign concept to many Christians. Only those who have found the treasures of solitude will understand these rambling thoughts of mine!
Once solitude is broken through to, and its’ wonderful discoveries are made, it ceases to be (exist) only in being alone or lonely. It then becomes a state of being that can be taken anywhere you go. You are in that state of solitude no matter what crowds you are in, no matter what turmoil surrounds you, no matter the state those around you are in. It is truly, the only place of peace. It’s the Secret Place of Psalm 91 and it’s going to cost you to find it. It won’t be easy, but its’ value is worth pursuing at any cost.
It’s where you discover you have Hinds feet and Eagles wings. It’s where Peace reigns and Wisdom and Understanding dwell. It’s where you know you are always heard, even when you don’t utter a sound.
Blessings to all who have found answers in Solitude and to those who are still searching.
Girl on a Journey