Solitude

“All the unhappiness of humanity arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room.”

(Blaise Pascal, Pensees section 136)

He goes on to say, “Hence it come people so much love noise and stir; hence it comes that the prison so horrible a punishment; hence it comes that the pleasure of solitude is a thing incomprehensible.”

This deep discomfort he suggested is what drives us to stay busy, distracted in our work and play. We sense deep longing within us, but we are terrified to explore it. This is why solitary confinement is considered such a high form of punishment. Forced off the treadmill of rhythmic busy we realize we are not the sum of our doings, and are forced to learn ‘We have a soul, that God is here, that this world is my Father’s world’ (Willard). 

Solitude and soul rest is not a punishment but an “invitation to enter more deeply into the intimacy of relationship with the One who waits just outside the noise and busyness of our lives” (Barton). 

Perhaps in this quarantined isolation we will respond to this invitation, embracing the surprising gift that we’ve been longing for beneath the surface of our busy lives. I recognize the struggle, the push-pull of longing-but-terrified of facing deeper fears.

We are wired for interaction with our Creator. We supplant this inner desire with easier, lesser things. I agree with Pascal, this is a crying shame! We are duped into thinking restful listening is being unproductive. Finding harbor in the love of our Creator brings meaning to all our productivity.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus

Silence is often deafening. Yet is there a treasure to be found on the other side?

“Solitude and silence is the most challenging, most needed and least experienced discipline among evangelical Christians today.” It’s much easier to read about it than actually do it. Our post-modern faith has become overly heady, stifling under certainties that rob us of experiencing the holistic relational nature of God, and ourselves. We think we know God out of the frontal cortex, like how we might study a recipe rather than know a person. We are starved for the reverential experience of being in the sheer silence of God’s presence. 

We are like jars of river water, Barton explains. We need time to sit still long enough and allow the sediment to settle and the water to become clear. To guide our souls towards rest is counter intuitive, beyond the “addictions to noise, words, people and performance.”

Jesus often slipped away from his friends, into places of solitude. He longed to be with, and our Father. Do I? Dare I come and sit, rest and be?

Yesterday, new age wellness guru Deepak Chopra’s live meditation received over 1 million concurrent views, crashing their servers. People are going stir crazy at home. Think about that for a minute. The isolation is driving a culture for existential meaning, seeking refuge from the outer and their own inner chaos.

What is our answer to this overwhelming cry? Come visit our online church service? We should not dismiss the deep hunger within our generation. They don’t reject mystery and experience, nor necessarily Jesus. They do reject a post-modern, scientific approach to religion. The grand meta-narratives of Western civilization are no longer accepted at face value. Our neighbors are desperate to tap a greater reality than the one served up to them. We need a Christianity that dives into this misguided hunger.

Unless we are ourselves are experiencing the reality of God’s presence, we have very little to offer this world. This is challenging. It’s not what we know, but who.

“When we are willing to be transformed, we stop wasting time theorizing, projecting, denying, or avoiding our own ego resistance” (Rohr).

Step away to a quiet place. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and wait. Read a Psalm, or the Lord’s Prayer. We don’t have to grope for some existential reality, Jesus has already come and show us the Father. Let’s visit our Creator God and follow the path of His Son.

Sojourning with you –

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