Identity and Solitude

Originally Posted: Friday, September 30, 2005
Mood: not sure
Now Reading: Henry Nouwen: The Way of the Heart
Topic: The Romance of God

Currently Listening
Upbeats & Beatdowns
By Five Iron Frenzy
14: A Flowery Song
see related

Well, it’s been a week since I’ve posted. Interesting days. Cold front has come through. It’s nice to have actual fall weather for once. New things that I’ve been learning. Conviction that God is bringing. I hate that I’m not good. I love the grace that Jesus gives me. Been learning of solitude. It’s good. I’m convicted. Change that I need.
May we be a people that learn to look to Jesus and not to ourselves. This simple principle requires much of us. Following Jesus will bring a person to a place where they are broken. As Henry Nouwen said, “In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me-naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken-nothing. It is nothingness that I have to face in my solitude.” I think that’s preferable. To look at Jesus in the midst of circumstances is hard. It’s not a quick answer.

Let me try to say it this way. Solitude is not being alone. Solitude is being OK with your situation. It’s looking to Jesus. When you look to something constant (like Jesus), then you are OK when everything else seems unconstant. Solitude is inward not outward, it is an inward spiritual discipline of constantly being with God and not an outward aloneness. Many times this requires being outwardly alone. This is because a person must be able to be oneself with God before that person can be oneself with people. Then a person can be themselves apart from manipulation. They are centered, constant. Looking at Jesus allows for our identity to be found in God not in others. Others thoughts and opinions don’t matter as much as God’s thoughts and truth. Nouwen affirmed that, “When my sense of self depends on what others say of me, anger is a quite natural reaction to a critical word.” However, if I have an inner discipline of solitude then I don’t have to prove myself because I am constantly with God, constantly centered, constantly deriving my identity from the One who gave that to me.

There is severe danger to others in not cultivating solitude. If we don’t do this we can severely hurt ourselves and others because we will be ministering in our flesh and not in the Spirit. Nouwen even goes as far as to say that “Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others.” That’s dangerous! However, there is great power in going to the desert. There is healing in following Jesus to where we meet with God in the lonely places. That is where we can begin to receive the revelation that only Jesus can heal and that we can only hurt. Why? Because we realize that we are “nothing” and that God is everything.  Even Revelation 3:17 says “But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

It is always from this place of neediness that we see our need, through that relate to others who are needy, and birth compassion.  “Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry.” This isn’t easy. It requires us not to control. Not to push our own agendas. We have to let people hurt and let God heal. We can’t, He can. This is what looking to Jesus requires. It requires Jesus to heal. So many times have I wanted to say something to make the hurting in another’s life stop instead of waiting for God. That’s not compassionate, that’s our own insecurity. When we see people hurting our natural reaction is to run or hide it. We think that if we just say something then it would go away. That’s not compassion. We are being selfish. Jesus is compassionate. He said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Many times when I am hurting I need to know that someone is with me. That someone cares and that I am safe with them. Us trying to fix hurt instead of letting God heal isn’t doing that. Us trying to fix hurt just covers wounds but doesn’t heal them. Then the person is worse off with another wound to carry around. We must learn to embody Christ by having compassion.

“Compassion…requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken.” Let’s become like little children as Jesus challenged us to do. Let’s become like the four-year old who when his old neighbor’s wife died went across the street and sat on the man’s lap. When the boy’s mother asked what he said, the boy simply replied, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.” That’s what Jesus does everyday. The best times that I’ve had with God were when I was hurt. That’s when I have felt Him the closest. That’s when His comfort is most real.

If we don’t do this, then people won’t know that they are OK if they are hurt. We need to be reminders that it is OK and normal to hurt. John 11:35 says that “Jesus wept.” Jesus hurt, and it’s OK if we do. I was looking at that a while back when I was hurting from some past junk and recalled some lyrics that I posted several months ago that say:
“When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.”

then I felt Jesus saying “Come and cry a while with me.” I felt Him close in that time and I had peace.
Let’s be a people that don’t control. Let’s be a people that don’t try to fix things. Let’s let God do that. Let’s let God fix people, and let’s trust Him with that. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s let God be Himself.