hidden glory

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

solitude or loneliness?

This summer has allowed for a lot more time alone than during the school year--since I'm only working 20 hours at World Harvest Mission, and everyone else has more work and/or more traveling and vacation. I'm realizing that as much as I crave solitude during the busy seasons of the year, once I have it...I often don't know what to do with it. And then there's the question of when does solitude morph into loneliness?

I've been re-reading a book by Henri Nouwen called Reaching Out. He begins this book with a treatise on the difference between loneliness and solitude, inviting the reader to move out beyond a restless loneliness to a restful solitude. Only after this point is it possible to truly reach out to others in love--to love them, rather than only be seeking their love. I realize that so much of my "activity" is often a way for me to run away from loneliness...to run from resting in the peace that Jesus Christ invites all of His children into.

Nouwen speaks to this: "When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch ... and when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afriad of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again and continue the game which makes us believe that everything is fine after all."

The experience of loneliness is the place where we ask the deeper questions about life and why we're doing what we're doing. For me, it's the place where I find words to express thoughts and experiences. Otherwise "words lose their power when they are not born out of silence." I'm led to beg God for change when I realize how I contribute to a world that is "full of empty chatter, easy confessions, hollow talk, senseless compliments, poor praise, and boring confidentialities."
Here is the goal of movement from loneliness to solitude. It is not merely the "inner peace" trumpeted by so many people in our world today, nor is it some type of religious nirvana on a mountaintop. The point of tending to our own hearts is so that we may have true Life to offer one another.

I close this blog with the contrast Nouwen discusses...and an invitation to join me in offering Life and real words to others borne from solitude: "When we live with a solitude of heart, we can listen with attention to the words and the worlds of others, but when we are driven by loneliness, we tend to select just those remarks and events that bring immediate satisfactions to our own craving needs."


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