April 18, 2010

Where there is God, There is No Need

Our first step toward a Way of the Heart is in finding solitude. According to Nouwen, “ministry and spirituality touch each other…is compassion. Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of ministry.” Solitude frees us to stop judging and “become free to be compassionate.” He adds, “solitude molds self-righteous people into gentle, caring, forgiving persons who are so deeply convinced of their own great sinfulness and so fully aware of God’s even greater mercy that their life itself becomes ministry.”

So what is solitude. The first thing that comes to my mind is being alone with nothing and no one around—out in the desert perhaps. And according to Nouwen that is where we need to end up—with getting away from everything to: “A nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something…The task is to persevere in my solitude,” a struggle that is “far, far beyond our own strength.”

However, we are not all monastics, and there are gradual steps toward solitude that will be as individual as each one of us. It starts with setting “apart a time and place to be with God and him alone.”

Jesus told his disciples, and us, “Come away to a quiet place and pray.” I think that the song “The Call” by Celtic Woman (click the link to hear it) embodies the whisper in each of our souls that urges us to come away and be with God. Listen to the voice inside that says:

“Open your heart
I am calling you
Right from the very start
Your wounded heart was calling, too”
The Call, Celtic Woman

When we take time to be with God, in solitude and persevere in silencing the “confusing ideas, disturbing images, wild fantasies, and weird associations [that] jump around in my mind like monkeys in a banana tree” we might just start to discover that God really is calling and waiting to love you and me.

Nouwen, in Out of Solitude, says "In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone.... In solitude we discover that life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared."

There is a song from the musical “Carousel” that reminds me of the difficulties and rewards of persevering in our quest for solitude. It is well worth the struggle, because at the end we discover that we “never walk alone.”
You’ll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

This week I’d invite you to find a few minutes (or longer) every day to set aside the frantic multi-tasking that is the norm for most of us. Let go of striving to meet expectations, be they your own or from others, just for a little while.

You & I may not be able to be like Mother Teresa, who suggested, “Spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything you know is wrong, and you will be alright,” but start with a short time and try to make it longer each day, as an appointment with the One who loves you.

If you are sure you don’t have any spare time, even for God—take an inventory of a day in your life. Write down what you do every half hour through the day, then ask yourself which of these give glory to God and/or which might be given up or changed to give a window of time to be with God. (Do I really need to spend that ½ hour reading Facebook?) I'm going to TRY and take a walk a few times a week and rather than spending it planning my next activity, just enjoy being in nature and with God.

Next week we’ll see what Nouwen has to say about finding peace in the silence that you have started to create in your solitude.

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