The Strength of Solitude – Christianity Today Magazine

The Strength of Solitude – Christianity Today Magazine

This article from CHRISTIANITY TODAY is really good, and it gave me insight, I think, into the spiritual things that have been happening to me since we moved to Indiana.

When I lived in Ohio, I taught junior high and lived near both my children and miscellaneous other family. When we moved to Indiana, the closest family was suddenly three hours away. As we got established in the community, I spent a lot of time alone. I didn’t know anyone, and my husband was busy learning his new job.

Two years after we moved, just as I felt I was getting settled, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease and I took an itinerant teaching job, one in which I have often been hungry for adult interaction. An itinerant teacher, by definition, moves from school to school. I had not thought that anyone could be more invisible than a substitute, but I know better now.

The end result of this was that I had time to think. I also had time to listen. And although I thought I had been sensitive to spiritual matters, I began to see them in a new way. I had a lot of time to listen to Christian radio as I drove from school to school, so I heard a lot of good teaching. I also had down time, so I had time to pray. Lots of time to pray. And I was reminded that prayer is a conversation. You don’t just talk; you listen for an answer.

Ruth Haley Barton says in her article that “the quietness of solitude and silence was becoming an inner condition within which I was able to recognize and respond to the stirrings, the voice, the very Presence of God himself.” I would have to agree.

The most recent change I have noticed, which I pray is not fleeting, is a change in my speech patterns. This is what Ruth Barton has to say about that:

“Our speech patterns are refined by the discipline of silence, because growing self-awareness enables us to choose more truly the words we say. Rather than speech that issues from subconscious needs to impress, to put others in their place, to compete, to control and manipulate, to repay hurt with hurt, we now notice our inner dynamics and choose to speak from a different place, a place of love, trust and true wisdom that God is cultivating within us.”

I have caught myself being ready to fly off the handle but instead wondering how I could get some perspective without upsetting anyone. Some things resolve themselves if you deal with them calmly. And I think that I am slowly learning to listen for the needs of others, rather than breaking in with my own. I still have a ways to go, but once you are in motion, things are easier. At least I hope they are.

Ruth Barton goes on to say that without solitude, we are “at the mercy of our compulsions.” I think that is true. It is sort of scary to be by yourself. You can either learn how to handle it, or you can seek out busyness to cover the noise of the quiet.

I have a friend who was recently widowed, and she is experiencing solitude in a much different way than I am. I am sure the experience is unique to the individual. I am not God, but I wonder if the purpose of solitude is not to learn to like it.

Maybe it’s to get closer to God.

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