Christian Solitude in the World
Christian Solitude in the World
BLOG #11 January 4th, 2021
Thus far, over the past several weeks, we have considered what I have referred to as personal solitude, which is our intentional movement toward becoming present to self in a solitary, quiet space. This then leads to a more passive sense of being in which we are drawn to rest in the presence of God inwardly as a way toward recollection and harmonization of self; spirit soul mind and body, which I have called interior solitude. This is a movement that brings our whole self to an awakening of who we are as God’s image bearers and to the reality of God within us, present and active. In short, a deep presence of self that awakens us to an ever-deepening presence of God with us. This is a settling of the whole self in solitude by which we come upon the presecne God in ourselves, all by God’s grace and our cooperation with God’s grace. As previously stated, this is often experienced as transformational liminal place between the intentionality of personal solitude and the more passive surrender or settling in aspects of interior solitude in which we allow God to bring Shalom, inner peace, to our very being with the express intention of becoming as we are drawn into deeper awareness of God’s presence and action within us. However, this is not the fullness of what is meant by Christian solitude. In fact, it is very much preparation for the fullness of Christian solitude, which, as we discussed last week, moves into solitude in Christian community. This, however, is still not the fullness of Christian solitude, as we can now recognize that personal solitude, interior solitude, and solitude in Christian community has prepared us for solitude in the world.
In the world, more broadly in all creation, just as in self and in Christian community discernment, humility, and avoidance of worldly controversy that upsets our inner presence can be very difficult. Practicing solitude in the world is akin to contemplation and action. I define a contemplative in action as; “a person who prayerfully remains open, non-defensive and in the moment, in union with God, living life in Christ Jesus and following Christ Jesus, moment by moment; while simultaneously actively living life, in this same state, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, by both being and doing God’s will in the world.” 1
True solitude is deeply aware of the world’s needs. It does not hold the world at arm’s length. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p.10
The concept of being with everybody and still being in solitude comes from the understanding that the best way to be with anybody, including ourselves, is to be aware and responsive to the truth that we live move and have our being in Christ Jesus and are thus filled with the life-giving Holy Spirit. We are thus inherently in and with God. The closer we are to God the closer we are to one another because God is closer than close to everyone and everything. In other words, we can never be truly present until we move toward solitude, growing into and becoming, not practicing, but becoming solitude, true presence, by the grace of God, as a way of being in the world. In this way of presence, we are drawn by a deep desire to practice the presence of God, to know ourselves in Christ Jesus, thus, to know God intimately, whether we are alone in a secluded place, in Christian community, or in the world. When we are graced with being present to the Presence of God we are then graced with the gift of unity of self, unity in our Christian communities, and to seeing the world and all creation in an interconnected manner through the eyes of Christ Jesus in whom we live, move, and have our being. In this we learn that the solitary in the world is not out to change the world by their own power or wherewithal, as much as they are interested in being their true self, close to God, and close to God’s people, so that God may use them to change the world. It begins with the inner work and then gradually move outward.
“I let God change me instead of first trying to change others”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
With the practice of personal solitude, flowing into interior solitude, which is then sanctified and used by the Lord in solitude of Christian community we discover that we are being prepared to be who God is calling us to be in the world. All along, we find that as this movement of solitude, presecne, is an important aspect of the sanctifying process. As this process unfolds, we are blessed with a heightened awareness of God’s presence and action within us, and learn to be present to our true selves, to God, and to other Christian people. This ultimately must become manifest in active compassion for the world around us, in all its various expressions, without exception. By this we discover that Christian solitude is in perfect accordance with the great commandment to Love God with all our being and to love our neighbors (all people) as we love ourselves. For it is the self-discovery of who we are in Christ Jesus, combined with an awareness of the presecne and action of God in us and around us that Christian solitude in its fullness offers to the Christian Contemplative.
Next week we begin a series of BLOGS in which we unpack “Christian Contemplative Silence.”
1 This quote comes from the Awakening Institute Seminar, titled “Contemplation in Action.