Thursday, April 16, 2020

Solitude Is a Transforming Fire

Seagulls at Sterling State Park, Monroe

Solitude is not loneliness.

Solitude is thick, deep, empowering, and transforming.

On Tuesday I spent two hours alone with God. Praying. For others, and for myself. Listening. Meditating on Scripture.

I have intentionally practiced solitude with God for fifty years. Often, hours at a time. I have experienced what Henri Nouwen means when he calls solitude with God the fire of spiritual transformation. In this fire, the false self gets burned away, and the true self - what God has intended us to be - emerges.

Biblical solitude, the kind that is transforming, the kind that changes us, is different from simply being alone in a peaceful, beautiful environment. Transforming solitude is bringing myself to God. It is being with God. It is being in the company, in the presence, of God.

Wil Hernandez states that biblical solitude "encompasses a kind of double transformative encounter: with ourselves and with God - often even simultaneously." (Hernandez, Mere Spirituality: The Spiritual Life According to Henri Nouwen, p. 14)

Transformative solitude is "daring to stand in God's presence." That's the first part of the double transformative encounter. Nouwen writes: "Our first task in solitude is to simply allow ourselves to become aware of the divine presence, to 'Be still, and know that I am God'," (Ib.) 

The second is this: 

"Through solitude we come face-to-face not only with God but with our true self as well. In fact, it is precisely in the light of God's presence that we can see ourselves for who we really are." (Ib.)

Arguably, not much transformation into increasing Christlikeness will happen without ongoing, solitary meetings with God.

Solitude is a transforming fire.

I write about this in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God