February 19, 2014

Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude

When I finished Richard Foster's chapter on Solitude, a chord in my heart had been struck:

Don't you feel a tug, a yearning to sing down into the silence and solitude of God?  Don't you long for something more?  Doesn't every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to his Presence  It is the Discipline of solitude that will open the door.  You are welcome to come in and "listen to God's speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence.  (p. 108-9) Celebration of Discipline

The longing I have for peace in any circumstances can be satisfied!  I imagine your days are as full of demands as mine; this world is a wearisome place with its requirements and responsibilities.  Do you long for a little solitude in your days?  Is your soul weary?  I pray God will use this post to lift you up right now.

What is Solitude?

Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude, Foster begins the chapter on the topic.  Sometimes we think that if we could "just get away," we'd find the peace - the solitude - we're looking for.  Other times we're petrified by the thought being alone, so we turn on some music, switch on the tv, or call a friend.  Our world is not short on distractions!

Our Lord invites us to experience real solitude.  Solitude is not loneliness; it is fulfillment by God.  Solitude is not simply eliminating distraction; it is being filled in our heart and mind with God-sized silence and peace.

How Can Get Solitude?

One major component of Solitude is silence.  Foster says solitude and silence are inseparable and reminds his readers of the many times Jesus withdrew to quiet places to be with God.   If we want to know Solitude throughout our days, we must be in the habit of withdrawing for times with God.  Even in those times it can be easy to do all the talking and/or rush through a Bible study to be able to check that off the day's list.  I know, because sometimes I approach my own quiet time as if it's a task on my to-do list.  Practicing Solitude, however, means biting our tongues, hushing our thoughts, and opening our ears.  Not only do we withdraw for times of quiet, we shut up and listen.  We let God fill us with His presence.

How do we grow in solitude?  By taking time away regularly to be with God and by not spending that time doing all the talking.  :)

I've tired this a couple of times over the last week and nothing dramatic has happened, but my soul feels more at rest knowing that God is there and He will speak.  I wrote down phrases or ideas that came to mind during those short times.  In general, I feel a lot calmer even knowing that there can be Solitude within me because of who God is and how He loves His children, not matter what's going on around me.  Good news!

What are the Effects of Solitude?

The fruit of solitude is increased sensitivity and compassion for others.  There comes a new freedom to be with people.  There is new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts. (p   108)  No longer consumed with our own loneliness or distracted by, well, distractions, we are able to see and care for others better.  By moving closer to God in solitude, we increasingly live out the second commandment: love thy neighbor as thyself.  Our relationship with God is changed and changes us, and so does our relationship with others.  A soul at peace can care for the souls of others.  Oh, that sounds so glorious to me!

What I find most wonderful thinking about solitude is that not only does God show up in the solitude, but He's always there.  A friend shared a quote from a 14th century monk on her blog, It only takes a tiny scrap of time to draw near to God.  We can have "official" quiet times in our day AND we can take hold of any quiet moment throughout the day to draw near to God (rather than our cell phone or our 5,000 Facebook friends).  Whenever we stop and listen, we will find God in the quiet.

Making myself embrace solitude rather than distraction will take some work.  I'm thankful to Foster for addressing this discipline in his book to bring it to my attention!  Do you find yourself missing out on solitude because you favor distraction or loneliness?  Let's be encouraged to forsake the worthless idols of loneliness and distraction, so we don't forfeit the grace that is ours in Christ!  (Jonah 2:8)

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