If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about my journey in discipline this year, I would recommend starting by reading my introductory blog here, as well as my other update blogs which you can find listed here.
The Discipline of Solitude
Here I am, six months into this journey in discipline, halfway through, and I feel like, more than anything, this challenge has made me realize how many weaknesses, and therefore potential places of growth, I have in my life. Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful for that! But it can get a little exhausting to seemingly follow the same pattern of 1.) read about a discipline, 2.) try to practice said discipline, and 3.) fail constantly at practicing the discipline.
For that exact reason, I was so excited for this month’s topic: Solitude. I thought to myself, “I’m an introvert and love to be alone, so this will be easy!” and, “Wow, solitude sounds so restful!”. Well, surprise, surprise, this discipline, as with every other one this year, was completely different from what I thought I knew. And also, like every other topic, the reality of the Discipline of Solitude is so much more challenging, and therefore life-giving, than what I believed it was.
One of the main differences that I discovered between my idea of solitude, and the reality of the spiritual discipline of solitude, is that it’s not simply about being alone. In fact, Foster says that “solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 96). He goes on to share that, even in the midst of crowds, we can still practice inward solitude. As with every other discipline I can think of, the inward position of our hearts matters more than the outward act of being alone.
Solitude and Silence
It’s funny how sometimes God lines up so many things in your life, where you really have no choice but to acknowledge that he’s trying to teach you something. This month is one of those times for me. As I read through this chapter, and as I processed this past month in my life, I couldn’t keep the tears from coming into my eyes.
For so long I’ve felt like I haven’t been rested. I go to bed and wake up, and I’m still tired. Even on my days off when I do absolutely nothing, I feel tired. Not physically tired, necessarily, but mentally and emotionally. For months I’ve been trying to “diagnose” myself, thinking that I need to learn how to “rest” well, or maybe I’d feel more peace if I keep up with my chores more, or spend more time with my friends and family. Of course these are all good things, but really I have not seen one of the big issues that I believe God has revealed to me this month: noise.
I can’t lean into and embrace the silence. Anytime I’m at home, I have music playing, or I’m listening to podcasts, or I’m watching TV. Again, I don’t think these things are bad in and of themselves, but I think I’ve been using them to avoid the silence out of fear. Fear that I might have to actually address my emotions. Fear that I will have to face the insecurities that have been lurking there my whole life. Fear that I’ll have to face those lies head on, and actually deal with them. It’s as if all this noise has become a numbing agent for me, and now I’m sensing the gentle call from my Father to clear out the noise a bit, feel the pain that I’ve been avoiding, and let him heal the wounds. He’s there.
“Without silence there is no solitude” (p. 98). I would go on to say, at least from what I feel like I’ve heard from the Lord this month for me personally, without solitude there is no true rest. Though it’s intimidating, and even scary, to take this step into more silence and solitude in my life, I feel that my spirit is really craving this. I long to sit in silence with the Lover of my soul, breathe deeply in his presence, and experience just a little sliver of his perfect peace that surpasses understanding. And the beauty is that our God wants that for us as well. Just like in the story of the prodigal son, the moment we step onto the road and say yes to his call, he comes running to us with open arms, showering us with his love and grace.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Whether you’ve been participating in this challenge yourself or not, I’d love to hear how you’ve practiced the discipline of solitude in the comment section below. Have a wonderful July!