My spiritual life is a dialectical movement between solitude and community, solitude and community, solitude and community... Solitude with God, koinonia, solitude with God, koinonia... I need both.
Ontologically, solitude comes first. Solitude is, as Nouwen has said, the "furnace of spiritual transformation." In solitude God purges my soul. This is good. I experience this, I know this, as a good thing. Without much time alone with God "community" (koinonia) becomes like a costume party that I'm at, wearing my mask. In solitude the mask gets peeled away to reveal the true self. Spend much time in true solitude with God and the masks you are wearing will get removed by the Spirit. "You" will then go to the party, interact with other people, in authentic ways. This is all about your own freedom, who God has made you to be, and who you truly are in Christ.
Thomas Merton has written:
"The truest solitude is not something outside you, not an absence of men or of sound around you: it is an abyss opening up in the center of your own soul. And this abyss of interior solitude is a hunger that will never be satisfied with any created thing. The only way to find solitude is by hunger and thirst and sorrow and poverty and desire. The man who has found solitude is empty, as if he had been emptied by death." (New Seeds of Contemplation, pp. 80-81)
Learn these things and live:
- True solitude is a condition of the heart.
- In true solitude God morphs the human heart.
- All persons have a hunger within that cannot be satisfied by any created thing. That includes you.
- So - stop questing after created things.
- Hunger and thirst for the real thing. In this way consider yourself impoverished and needy.
- What you and I need is God.
- Therefore, meet often with God.
- He loves you, so in his presence you won't need the mask anymore.