Thursday, January 22, 2009

THE GIFT OF SOLITUDE

Second of seven gifts that keep on giving -- a mid-winter spiritual deepening project

FOLLOW JESUS TO A SOLITARY PLACE. Take a minute to read Mark 1:29-39. Consider what you're reading. Jesus rises early in the day and goes out to a solitary place to pray. This was a basic practice for Jesus. It's also a source of guidance and empowerment for Jesus being with people effectively. So it is in our lives. Solitude is one of the gifts that keep on giving. I put forward the following principles regarding solitude:

1. Solitude is the spiritual discipline that counters loneliness, noise, and a crowded consciousness. It is a discipline to be practiced and developed. It is necessary to develop a personal relationship and growth. Dr. Morris Weigelt says: “If you have no time for solitude, you must change your lifestyle. If you do not find yourself alone, you will not find yourself at all.”

2. Solitude tunes us into God’s healing presence and wise counsel. Read: Psalm 8, 46. We aren’t talking about being alone by ourselves. This is about getting alone with God. God is with you. Anticipate your time with Him. Open your heart to His love, His counsel, His comfort, His direction.

3. Solitude re-focuses our understanding of who we are and how we can care well for others. Read: Matthew 6:5-6; 26:36-46. Instead of being defined and driven by what people think of us or expect of us, in solitude we refocus on who we are in Christ and God’s best for us. Henri Nouwen says: "In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared.” Out of that, we see others differently.

4. Out of solitude emerges insight, compassion, and power to address the most pressing challenges in our lives and world. Read: Mark 1:38, Matthew 9:35-38. Here’s where solitude becomes a gift that keeps on giving. Out of solitude, we go with strength, purpose, and capacity to be with others effectively, offering grace and care beyond ourselves. Thomas Merton shares his experience of solitude this way: “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.”

5 STEPS INTO SOLITUDE. Richard Foster offers the following steps into the spiritual discipline of solitude. See if you do not find this a gift that keeps on giving throughout your life:

1. Take advantage of the “mini-solitudes” that fill your day.

2. Develop a “quiet place” for silence and solitude.

3. Train yourself to limit and focus your talking to maintain plain, helpful speech.

4. Try to live one day without words at all.

5. Withdraw 4 times a year for 3-4 hours for the purpose of reorienting your life goals.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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