Solitude – The Way of the Heart by HJM Nouwen

Only in the context of the great encounter with Jesus Christ himself can a real authentic struggle take place.  The encounter with Christ does not take place before, after, or beyond the struggle with our false self and its ‘demons’.  No, it is precisely in the midst of this struggle that our Lord comes to us and says, ‘As soon as you turned to my again, you see I was beside you.’

We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with Him and Him alone.  Our primary task therefore in solitude, is not to pay undue attention to the many faces which assail us, but to keep the eyes of our heart on Him who is our divine Saviour.  Only in the context of such grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature.  As we come to realise that it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us, that He is our true self, we can slowly let our compulsions melt away and begin to experience the freedom of the children of God.

What does all of this mean for us in our daily life?  Even when we are not called to the monastic life, or do not have the physical constitution to survive the rigors of the desert, we are still responsible for our own solitude.  Precisely because of our secular milieu which offers us so few spiritual disciplines, we much set out to develop our own.  We must indeed, fashion our own desert where we can withdraw everyday, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord.  Without such a desert we will ose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others.  The very first thing we need to do is set apart a time and a place to be with god and Him alone.