The Christian walk has an important, necessary rhythm: Solitude, Community, Mission. (Influenced by Henri Nouwen)
Solitude, from Nouwen, is not loneliness but rather a solidarity of identity – it is the capacity to be at peace with God and ourselves as ones who are beloved children of God in Jesus. Solitude is not isolation either, but rather the desire to be present to God and to dwell in God’s presence that is already with us. Solitude often takes the rhythm of being alone somewhere to pay attention, but is also possible in a crowded place with many people.
Solitude, that is, knowing and dwelling securely in our identity as a forgiven, redeemed child of God in Jesus, pours us into the community of believers – the group of people with the same title as us: Beloved of the Father. The community builds and encourages one another and provides an environment of permission for love – loving God and one another and neighbor.
Strong community will always pour out into self-less love and mission. That is the imitation of Christ in outward fashion. Such an outpouring is dependent on the nurture it receives (and actual pours out) that comes from solitude and community.
This, I think, is a comforting message and a guiding thought. Contemplating this idea from Nouwen grants peace and causes anxiety in the spiritual life to fade.
Here is a quote from Making All Things New that I want to share (p.68). I believe this sums up the inner working of the text and sets our imaginations participating with God, looking to discover and create particular disciplines of attentiveness and action:
“A spiritual discipline, therefore, is the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives, where this obedience can be practiced. Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.”