Teresa of Avila writes “Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself.”
Taking that description and putting it into the context of what we do with our physical self in solitude may I offer this definition of solitude.
Solitude is the process of being alone, doing nothing for a period of time so one can discover and know Him in themselves.
If indeed that is case and I believe it to be, does it truly get any better than that?
I have tried to write this series by relating my experiences with these disciplines and this post will be no different. Before I do this I want to give you a few quotes from Dallas Willard in this regard that are critical to cast a vision for the desire to meet the Trinitarian presence in solitude.
Willard writes the following in the book The Great Omission
“Solitude and silence are primary means for correcting the distortions of our embodied social existence.”
“The wrung habits of mind, feeling, and body are keyed so closely and so routinely to the social setting that being alone and being quiet for lengthy periods of time are, for most people, the only way they can take the body and soul out of the circuits of sin and allow them to find a new habitual orientation in the Kingdom of God” (the effective range of His will).
To those who believe prayer, church attendance and Bible study will be sufficient in dealing with these circuits of sin Willard offers the following.
….. (these activities) “generally have little effect for soul transformation as is obvious to any observer. If all the people doing them were transformed to health and righteousness by them, the world be vastly changed. Their failure to bring about the change is precisely because the body and soul are so exhausted, fragmented, and conflicted that the prescribed activities cannot be appropriately engaged in and by and large degenerate into legalistic and ineffective rituals. Lengthy solitude and silence, including rest, can make them very powerful.”
One more, “But we must choose these disciplines. God will, generally speaking, not compete for our attention. If we will not withdraw from the things that obsess and exhaust us into solitude and silence, He will usually leave us to our own devices. He calls us to “be still and know.” To the soul disciplined to wait quietly before Him, to lavish time upon this practice, He will make Himself known in ways that will redirect our every thought, feeling and choice. The body itself will enter a different world of rest and strength. And the effects of solitude and silence will reverberate through the social settings where one finds oneself.”
Ahh… just writing these quotes and reading them again brings hope to my soul. I personally know every word quoted above as my reality.
About ten years ago I signed on as an Apprentice of Jesus Christ. The first book I read was Richard Foster’s Celebration of the Disciplines. As I read about each discipline and the benefit in realizing the abundant life, I wept. I so wanted that life as I began my exit away from church leaders telling me to do do do rarely if ever mentioning BEING.
Once the book was done I quickly moved from observer to practitioner. In reading I could see the importance of solitude and silence so I began there. As I mentioned in the video on solitude that you can see below this post I started slowly but not as slowly as I did with jogging. I went with a few hours a week to start. It was not difficult only because I am self-employed and work as I wish. This is no exit lane for you who are not self-employed! Then I began devoting half days each month leading to full day silence and solitude retreats.
Willard’s quotes on being freed from things that obsess and exhaust us was my greatest experience as I looked back the first six months. I was a control freak, my way or the highway. When it did not happen I pouted or did an adult tantrum leading to a manipulation exercise of the situation. Once I understood my friend solitude was the path to me meeting up with Jesus my Master, Teacher I readily took all the feeling, emotion and non productive energy one exhaust in attempting to get their way to Him. In this dastardly state I just showed up, did nothing, craving to hear His correction and guidance through the Holy Spirit.
Most of time it was graceful loving guidance. Occasionally I would get the butt kicking I deserved. This is not to say that many others I have consulted with in their time of solitude did not get taken behind the shed and given a good you know what. God disciplines as Hebrews so aptly points out and I love His discipline.
I know He cares and loves me enough to discipline me.
So in these times He would remind me that He is my refuge and my strength that my job was to seek Him and His Will not my way and life and relationships would work. Transformation occurred at a good rate in this respect. I believe this is true because I cultivated the ability, which everyone can, to hear God. This ability is a huge trust and confidence builder which as we have been saying is the prerequisite to the commitment to apprentice with the Master Jesus.
I quickly learned to stop and sit and listen whenever any imbalance was detected in my thoughts and feelings so as not to let them get to my heart to be acted on ways hurtful to me or others within a thought word or deed. This I see as God giving GRACE in amounts that if it was jet fuel would take a 747 from Chicago to Sydney.
Today solitude and silence are frequent daily disciplines for me in periods of time from 15 min. to an hour. I can be a relational train wreck without the refuge of solitude and silence taking me to the Trinitarian presence in my life. I believe I am a more humble man through these disciplines. Full day solitude and silence retreats are something I engage in 2-4 times a year.
So are you ready to start. You cannot tell me with a straight face that you are not interested in leaving obsessive and exhausting thoughts and feelings and actions behind. By all means start with the process as I have described in the video if this is new to you, but start! You do have the time!
Renovator Ministries holds full day retreats a minimum of twice a year. Consider this and if interested you can register at the top of the blog under EVENTS.
As always please talk with us and encourage others. Your comments are so welcomed!