Survival through Solitude

I write this from a small Kelowna beach watching my children play in the cold Okanagan lake, a singer wearing a tiny, red sequinned dress belts out ‘We are Family’.

It’s Canada day, yes, Canada is 145 years old today and 1000’s of locals and tourists join the birthday fun. Red and white is the uniform of the day, everyone has their Canada on in one way or another.

And suddenly ….. I realise ‘I’ve got all my sister’s with me’ as we meet up with loads of Willow Parkers.

Week one of the school holidays and we see a promise fulfilled – a treehouse.
Yes, nestled within our cherry tree sits ‘Fort Collins’.
Built by Phil and our friend Mike with the invaluable help of Josiah. The place has already been painted and Emily’s artistic flair added. It has also hosted a couple of sleepovers. Sadly, for those sleeping over the treehouse is little too close to parent’s bedroom to get away with any late night sneaking out.

Nice try though…

As much as it’s for the little people in my life, I confess I’ve sneaked up there too this week. It holds a certain silence, an embrace – offering a solitude.

So, in the midst of crazy summer life I will attempt to offer a thought on solitude, or more so,  the thoughts of great theologians, who offer a wealth of truth on spiritual disciplines, solitude being one of them.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the value of solitude and silence.
‘We are silent at the beginning of the day because God should have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep because the last word also belongs to God… Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing.  But everybody knows that this is something that needs to be practiced and learned’ (Life Together)

The purpose of silence and solitude says Foster, is to be able to see and hear (Celebration of Discipline)
But this is more than stopping and focusing, ‘We can only survive solitude,’ warns Dallas Willard, ‘if we cling to Christ there’ (Spirit of the Disciplines)
Henri Nouwen describes how our aloneness with God can feel, this truth hit me,
“Solitude is not a private therapeutic place.  Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born…
In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me – naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken – nothing.  It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.    But that is not all.  As soon as I decide to stay in my solitude, confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations jump about in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree.  Anger and greed begin to show their ugly faces.  I give long, hostile speeches to my enemies and dream lustful dreams in which I am wealthy, influential, and very attractive – or poor, ugly, and in need of immediate consolation.  Thus I try again to run from the dark abyss of my nothingness and restore my false self in all its vainglory…
The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ” (The Way of the Heart, p. 27-28).

Or the sounds so simple yet profound challenge is found in Matthew 6:6
      ‘Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.             Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will    begin to sense his grace ‘

And isn’t that what we all need?
To sense His grace. 

I love the idea of solitude being our primary place of strength.
Strength to  grace this life

So, how about you – how, where, when do you find solitude?

Share your wisdom in comments and maybe give this treehouse dweller and her readers some creative ideas.

Michelle xoxo 

9 thoughts on “Survival through Solitude

  1. Loved the notes on solitude. Yes, I want God to have the first and last word in my day – hearing Him is what matters. Blessings on you, dear Sister!


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