The Only Necessary Thing
While on a wedding vacation to Florida, I have had some extra time to be alone with my Creator. My regular positive ritual includes my daily 2 cups of morning java, along with finding a quiet spot where I hide myself away and journal my thoughts, prayers, and so some spiritual reading from the Scriptures as well as some other enriching spiritual reading.
Currently my reading is from my favourite author, Henri Nouwen. His book is so good that most of my pages are underlined in yellow marker.
Here’s a sampling of some of the contents of that book.
What is Silence and Solitude?
Henri Nouwen (from The Only Necessary Thing): Solitude is not just a private therapeutic place where we go to escape the noise and demands of the world. Solitude is a place where we meet with God and God alone. In solitude we get to spend quality time with our truest Lover, Maker and Father. We walk with Him and talk with Him and He tells us who we are in this place of silence.
It is also a place where we meet our true selves. As the world’s voices fade and we cease from our striving, self-defining/self-affirming action we are left naked and vulnerable. Our true self is exposed in all its ugliness, sin and uselessness. Here we are everything that we have been avoiding and covering up. All of the emotional junk that we have thrown into the closet is laid bare here. But this is actually a gift because it is exactly here that we meet and experience the grace of God in its fullness!
Finally, solitude is a place of freedom. In solitude we are exposed to the truth that we are exactly who God made us to be and all that we have to be is His child. As we bathe in God’s rich grace and begin to accept our true identity in Christ we are set free. We are freed from the need to show others what we have and what we can do. The desire to hide and seek fulfillment from empty jugs dies here. Here in solitude, we are freed up to be people who raise empty hands to God in recognition that all we are is a free gift from God.
What happens in solitude that makes it so vital for our health?
Henri Nouwen (The Only Necessary Thing): It has been estimated that we encounter somewhere between 5 and 10 thousand ads a day from multiple forms of media. All of these ads are attempting to tell us: who we are and what we should be pursuing. That is a powerful shaping force! We need a counter balance if we hope to live our lives with and for Jesus. Solitude is the vehicle for this counter balance. Solitude makes living a spiritual life possible.
Silence and solitude makes us available to God. The noise and business of life crowds out our ability to hear from God and seek Him in any meaningful way. By getting alone and quieting ourselves we shut out all the distractions and give God our full attention. This is the place where God can shape us into the people He wants us to be.
Solitude also restores our dependence on God. As we get alone we become increasingly aware of our own weaknesses and sin. This is a good thing. The more we realize that we are not capable of living for God on our own the more we discover our absolute dependence on God.
Finally, solitude provides us a place to rediscover our true identity in Christ. The world is constantly trying to shape us into a form that it desires us to be. The world fuels our false self. In solitude God reminds us that we are His creation, His precious child, the objects of His faithful love. Without this reminder we are doomed to accept a spiritually weak life with far less joy than was intended for us by God.
When we emerge from silence and solitude we are freshly charged with a renewed sense of purpose. We have a renewed sense of confidence and strength that comes not from ourselves but from God. And we have a renewed joy that flows from the understanding that we are possessed and loved by our Great Father. Filled and blessed we are no longer dependent on others or ourselves. We are free and even encouraged to love others with the same generous love that we just received from God.