From loneliness to solitude.

It's very easy to keep busy, distract oneself, avoid the pain, bury your face in friends, food, summer, whatever. I've found that I have been busier in the last three weeks that I have this entire year. Even though I feel this uneasiness in the pit of my stomach, and a whisper in my ear telling me to slow down and face the music, until now I have been ignoring it. I don't want to face my loneliness. Yet at some point, it always catches up with us. 

I'm reading a book by Henri J. M. Nouwen called Reaching Out. Talking of the loneliness that cripples our individualistic society, Nouwen writes, "It is this basic human instinct of loneliness that threatens us and is so hard to face. Too often we will do everything possible to avoid the confrontation with the experience of being alone, and sometimes we are able to create the most ingenious devices to prevent ourselves from being reminded of this condition. Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but out emotional and mental pain as well." 
He later goes on to say "This difficult road is the road of conversion, the conversion from loneliness in to solitude. Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it in to fruitful solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. This requires not only courage but also a strong faith. As hard as ti can be to believe that the dry desolate desert can yield endless varieties of flowers, it is equally hard to imagine that our loneliness is hiding unknown beauty. The movement  from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearful play."

I always wondered where the attraction in living a life of solitude was. It seemed to me that to be a nun, or a monk, or to choose any other kind of vocation which would sentence me to a life of silence and solitude and meditation would be cripplingly boring, and to provide that space to face my innermost struggles...it's a scary thought. I recently lost someone very close to me, and it left a bit of a scar. Yet in the midst of my struggle to seal over the holes with anything that may fit so I didn't have to feel the holes gaping wide open for all the world to see, I realised what a blessing it would be to live a life in which I could sit at the feet of Jesus quietly, and just listen to his breath. A life where all the noise, and rush, and hustle and bustle of this crazy, terrifying, beautiful world would be stilled for a moment of silence in awe of the Creator. Where I could seek understanding, healing, and peace. 

This is not to say people have no place in this new solitude. People, I think, are essential. Community is irreplaceable. But I think it is when we can be with somebody, and not have to fill the void with words and deeds, but merely an understanding of each other...that is when we are able to not feel lonely in striving for the companionship of our peers, but filled with gratitude at the privilege of being in their presence. I sat on the beach with a friend yesterday, and in a brief lull in conversation I sat in silence and admired the ocean. And for those ten seconds, I was so appreciative of what little had been shared, the potential for so much more to shared, the ability to be silent, and to share that moment. Jesus is so quiet. To be silent, solitary, I think is the most precious gift of all. For it is in that moment that we are one with our Creator, and all of His creations.

Are we so afraid to step back from the mania? I know I am, most of the time. Yet there is always an oasis in the desert, a clearing in the wilderness, a calm in the storm. A Saviour with open arms. I hurt, yet that hurt is nothing next to love. Hurt inflicted upon me by man has no power next to the love gifted to me by God. To feel peace in my spirit is to be freed from the pain felt in my heart. Yet I must feel this hurt, and this pain, in order to reach deeper and grasp a hold of love, of peace. And it is in this space of loneliness that I experience solitude, a companionable silence in which I embrace my brokenness, and by the power of my God it is turned in to a beautiful mosaic, which is a gift to the world.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written.
    Solitude seems to be on everyone's thoughts these days, so I suppose I'm obliged to mention Dalton Lifsey. You've probably heard him speak on solitude.

    Anyway, it's great just being able to chill and love Jesus. Ah I need to go to Tawharanui again...