Gabriel's Horn, Pastor George Weaver, March, 2015

posted Feb 25, 2015, 9:01 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Feb 25, 2015, 9:01 AM ]

The Glory of Solitude

Is it possible to be alone without being lonely? Aloneness (being alone) is not the same thing as loneliness. Renowned theologian Paul Tillich put it this way: "Language... has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone."

Can one be alone without being lonely? Can you spend time by yourself without craving noise or the company of other people? Have you discovered the glory of quiet time spent alone, time spent listening to your soul? Solitude brings with it gifts that come from nowhere else.

Writer Ardath Rodale who lives in Emmaus, PA on her family's organic farm offers this counsel, “Give yourself time to listen to who you are.” That is advice too important to ignore: we need to give ourselves time to listen to who we are. Have you noticed that, in English, the word "listen" contains the same letters as the word "silent"? In order to listen deeply, we must be silent. Alone. And in our quiet aloneness, we will hear what can be heard no other way.

Consider these words of Thoreau: “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.” ~Henry David Thoreau, 'Solitude,' Walden, 1854

That is the glory of solitude. Are you ready to give yourself that gift? We were offered that opportunity at the beginning of Lent with the Ash Wednesday prayer vigil at our church. It is something that one can take advantage of throughout the course of everyday living. Consider it a rich privilege and luxury to be sought out on a regular basis.

We read of various occasions in the Gospels where Jesus sought solitude. For example, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed “ (Mark 1:35 – NIV). Solitude and prayer were always essential components of Jesus' ministry. Prayer, discernment, and intimate conversation with His Father were part of our Lord's daily routine.

Prayer for Jesus, as well as for any Christian, is that which gives life and direction to active ministry. The depth that comes from this active prayer life makes Jesus all the more attractive and all-the-more sought out by the people who longed for the life-giving grace which naturally radiated from His being.

These sentiments are captured by John Greenleaf Whittier's words expressed in this familiar hymn: “Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease; take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.... let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, O still, small voice of calm.”

May we all come to appreciate more fully the glory of solitude throughout our observance of the seasons of Lent and Easter in 2015.

George M. Weaver, Pastor of Maturing Ministries