Friday, March 10, 2023

Solitude Comes Before Community

(Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin)

This is how I see things.

The ontological order of spiritual formation into Christlikeness is:

1. Solitude.
2. Community.

Then, return to solitude, and back to community, over and over again and again, year after year. This is a dialectical movement, meaning a forward motion where every return to solitude is a small but significant gain in Christlikeness, which is then brought to community, and so on and on as Christ is formed in us. (Galatians 4:19)

Practically, in my life, it looks like this.

I take time alone with God.

Linda and I meet with a small group of Jesus-followers every week (we've done this together for 51 years).

Linda and I meet with the large group community (our church family, on Sunday mornings at other times). We never miss this.

Then, it's back to solitary, alone-times with God, and the forward-moving spiral begins again.

Solitude makes me better in community. Henri Nouwen writes:

"Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we are going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that we are. We will expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot." (Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living, p. 21)