It’s time to brew a cup of coffee or tea and sit down in your favorite chair and get ready for another…
Thanks for joining me! This week we read chapter 4: “Solitude and Secrecy” from Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper.
Summary: This chapter only has one simple idea: sometimes we need solitude in order to grow spiritually. What’s the connection between solitude and spirituality? I’m glad you asked.
In order to cultivate a deep spiritual life we need to know ourselves. Not the carefully curated self that we project to the rest of the world but the truest and most real version of ourselves. We need to learn to relate to God honestly, from the true core of our being. If we’re pretending to be someone we’re not, then we’re not really and truly relating to God. You can’t have a real relationship with someone if you’re not being honest about who you are.
That was John Calvin’s very first point in the Institutes. The first line says, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.”
But here’s the problem: it’s not as easy as it sounds to know who you really are. And that’s where the practice of solitude comes in. We need to clear space to be alone with ourselves in order to truly know ourselves. Not who other people say we are but who we truly are.
We live in a world of constant noise and distraction. I recently read that for the first time in human history solitude is starting to fade away altogether. Some people are never alone with their thoughts. If we feel the least bit bored or restless we can pull out our phone and flip through headlines or texts. We bounce from one distraction to the next without ever pausing long enough to be alone with ourselves. The result is that we don’t even know ourselves. We’re alienated from our true selves. And if we’re alienated from our own selves then we’re definitely not going to be able to relate properly to God.
In this chapter Mike Cosper is suggesting that for the sake of our sanity and spiritual health we need to create space in our life when we are quiet and alone. The reason we should do this is so that we can discover who we really are because that will enable us to begin to relate to God in an honest and meaningful way.
Commentary: I absolutely agree with the premise of this chapter. Periodic times of solitude is a basic human need and we impoverish our lives if we never take time to be alone. A careful study of the life of Jesus will reveal that He often withdrew from the crowd and made it a priority to periodically spend time alone. We would do well to follow His example.
The most godly people that I’ve known in my life have been the most self-aware. They know who they are, both the good parts and the bad parts, and because of that they’re able to relate to God and to others with integrity. You can’t experience that depth of self-knowledge if you’re constantly staring at a screen or always in the presence of other people.
That doesn’t mean that we permanently withdraw and become hermits. It means we set aside time to be alone so that when we’re with others we can fully give ourselves to them.
Application: Maybe you’re the kind of person who makes it a point to regularly set aside time for solitude. But most people don’t. In fact, most people are afraid to spend extended time alone with themselves. It sounds boring.
When I was in seminary a mentor challenged me to sit quietly in a chair with no distractions for three hours. Just sit there. It’s harder than it sounds. It’s amazing how uncomfortable solitude can be. But I did it. And I benefited so greatly from those three hours in a chair that I started doing it once a month. No phones, books, TV or computer. Just me and my thoughts. And a notebook to write down any good ideas or insights. I believe that it was during those hours of solitude that my spirituality began to take on a depth that had been lacking before. And I’m sure that’s why my mentor suggested that I begin cultivating the practice of solitude. I gave up that practice years ago but after reading this chapter I think I’m going to start it again.
How about you? Where are you cultivating solitude in your life? Do you know who you are at the core of your being? Do you relate to God and others from a deep sense of self-awareness? Or in our world constant distractions are you just skimming across the surface of your life?
You don’t have to spend three hours sitting in a chair but I hope you’re able to find time each week to be away from your phone and all other distractions. Maybe go for a long slow walk if sitting sounds too hard. If you’re not in the habit of practicing solitude then you have something to look forward to. I think you’ll find, as you get to know your true self more and more, that you’re quite an amazing person. Fearfully and wonderfully made!
Have a blessed weekend!
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