The Discipline of Solitude
A state, or situation of being alone. But it is not loneliness. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Think of solitude as a state of mind, not a location or place per se.
From Richard Foster we read, “We can have a fear of being alone which drives us to noise and crowds. We can keep up a constant stream of words even if they are silly and meaningless. We buy devices to plug into our ears or on our wrists, so that at least if no one else is around, we are not condemned to silence. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) analyzes our culture well when he writes, “Where shall the world be found, where will the word resound? Not here, for there is not silence enough.”” Wow, that was a long, long time ago.
Foster goes on to offer this, “If we possess inward solitude, we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. Whether we are alone or with a crowd of people we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart. There is freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine whisper better. Jesus lived in inward heart solitude. He also frequently experienced outward solitude.” To see this, read the following: Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 6:12, Matt. 14:13, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31, Luke 5:16, Matt. 17:1-9, Matt. 26:36-46... all these show Jesus frequently sought out solitary places as a regular practice...
He did this not to avoid people, but so he could ultimately be present with, minister, and serve people.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers us this, “One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.”
What can we conclude from this? We must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of others if we want to be alone safely. As Foster states, “We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience.”
Luke records in chapter 5 that Jesus often went to “lonely places” and prayed... in other words, free of distractions and other mind influences. He was not alone per se, just in lonely places so he could spend time in prayer, and likely lots of solitude with just his thoughts... and meditation.
Without silence, there is no solitude. Silence before God always involves the act of listening. Simply to refrain from talking, with a heart of listening to God, is silence and solitude.
An old saying, “All those who open their mouths, close their eyes.”
Ecclesiastes 3:7-There is a time for everything. A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak...
Ecclesiastes 5:1-2- Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Do not be quick with your mouth
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
How can we practice solitude?
How about just sitting in stillness, silence and maybe even early morning or late-night darkness.
How about just sitting in your car for a few minutes either before you head off in the morning, or when you get back home in the evening?
Sitting on a park bench or your patio or front porch
There are lots of ways to practice solitude... but turn of the computer and put it away. Turn off the phone and the watch or leave them in another location where you can neither hear, feel, nor see them going off.
It’s a great way to really reinforce the Principles of Spiritual Discovery! Stop and consider...
Try going a whole day without speaking... now there’s a challenge.
Still to come: