What Emerges from Solitude?
“Wherever there is something in our life that is not conformed to the image of Christ, there is a place where we are incapable of being all God wants us to be with others … a place where our life with others is hindered and limited and restricted in its effectiveness and in its fullness … a place where our life will tend to become disruptive and even destructive to others. We can never be all God wants us to be with others as long as that point of unlikeness to the image of Christ exists within us.” M. Robert Mulholland, Jr “I believe that the combination of human action from a contemplative center is the greatest art form, one that takes our whole lives to master. When action and contemplation are united, we have beauty, symmetry, and transformation—lives and actions that heal the world by their very presence.” Richard Rohr “Each of the spiritual disciplines—rightly practiced—is in some profound way, for the sake of others.” Ruth Haley Barton A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook: “If I’m honest, I went into quarantine mad at church people and not really liking them or church community. Wounds that come from the church community hurt deeply and
stuck around. God used the community being removed from me to show me… that I have been a wounder, too. Confinement taught me many things, one being that the church community is a necessity. They serve as translators. They serve to interpret back to us what we are pouring out. Who doesn’t need that?” I cringe when I think of the how the effects that some of the unloving mindsets I have operated under, have hurt people in my own life. I have found that “church people” are many times “mad people” because we have not experienced loving attachment on an on-going basis from the heart of God. Church people tend to work for this love, instead of from it. What happens when all of our knowing and doing leaves an inner ache? This is where contemplative practices such as silence and solitude can transform our lives, and bring us to places of healing and freedom as we feel God’s delight in us--not because of any performance or behavior on our part, but simply because God loves hanging out with us! How can we possibly be accepting and loving towards others if we first do not live a received life of this very love from our heavenly Father? (I John 4:19) I see Moses as the first person in the Bible who models for us how contemplation can transform our actions and service to the world. His early actions literally killed people and left to himself, he would have been incapable of being all God desired Him to be. Yet, God in His mercy lovingly led him to his own personal quarantine of 40 years, into solitude, into a new place of fullness and effectiveness. As Richard Rohr writes, “God takes the initiative in this respectful relationship with Moses, inviting the fleeing murderer (Exodus 2:12-15) into an amazing intimacy and ongoing conversation, which allows mutual self-disclosure, the pattern for all love affairs. This text teaches us the essential relationship between spirituality and social engagement. Moses’ intimate encounters with God are the basis of his strength and courage--for the good of others.” The encounters we have with God in solitude and the secret place are key to our personal freedom AND the freedom we seek to offer others. Here is a simple practice to grow in feeling God’s delight in you in your own practice of solitude. BETH