Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Solitude and the Double Transformative Encounter

Seagulls at Sterling State Park, Monroe

Yesterday I spent four hours alone with God. Praying. For others, and for myself. Listening. Meditating on Scripture.

I have intentionally practiced solitude with God for forty eight years. Often, hours at a time. I have experienced what Henri Nouwen means when he calls solitude with God the fire of spiritual transformation.

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.

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