Solitude is where community begins...
I had the opportunity to join some folks I work with on a retreat over the last couple work days. Our family ministry team at Christ Church snuck away and spend some time together at a really cool log-cabin retreat / wedding venue just North East of Plano. The location was actually in McKinney, which is the town I live in. It was about 15 away from my house. We had a great time of praying alone and together, talking about things ministry related and even more importantly, things related to our personal formation as people who follow Jesus. I am very thankful I work with folks who find this type of engagement important and "productive" in the most meaningful of ways.
This is a quote I pulled from a little book we read during our personal prayer / retreat time and then talked about when we came back together. The book the quote is from is entitled A Spirituality of Living by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I've read this book a couple time before and I'm sure I've shared a quote or 2 from it's pages right here on this blog. Maybe even that quote I put in that picture... it's resonates so deeply I could post it once a month for many months to come and it would do my soul, my inner life good! (the picture is one I took on location at the retreat.)
I even took a little spiritual temperament test (we all took it and chatted about it). Contemplative wasn't my top temperament but just behind it. Hmmm... I'm not sure that test would have looked remotely similar a few years ago! That's exciting to me. I think, with God's help, my spiritual directors help, some good & godly relationships and the significant growth that only the Spirit of God can bring about I am learning to heard my monkeys and order my desires rightly around Jesus and the life he desires to live in and through me. I have lightyears to go, I am still totally and completely a novice (in the proper monastic sense) but I'm on the path and for this A.D.H.D. kid (recently diagnosed! ;-) that is a really big deal.
Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there space for that in our lives?
In and through the Spirit we become participants in the communion of love that Jesus shares with his Father. That is the mystery of our redemption and the promise of the spiritual life.
The way I would like to define communion here is that Jesus spent the night listening to the Father calling him the Beloved. (Luke 3:22 & 9:35)... It is with this knowledge of being Beloved that Jesus could walk freely into a world in which he was not treated as the Beloved.
To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of our being and permeate our whole life. Who am I? I am the beloved. If we are not claiming that voice as the deepest truth of our being, then we cannot walk freely in this world.
Real freedom to live in this world comes from hearing clearly the truth about who we are, which is that we are the beloved. That's what prayer is about. And that's why is is so crucial and not just a nice thing to do once in a while. It is the essential attitude that creates in us the freedom to love other people not because they are going to love us back but because we are so loved and out of the abundance of that love we want to give. This is where ministry starts...
Why is it so important that solitude come before community? If we do not know we are the beloved sons and daughters of God, we are going to expect someone in the community to make us feel that we are. We will expect someone to give us that perfect, unconditional love. They cannot.
Community is solitude greeting solitude: "I am the beloved; you are the beloved. Together we can build a home."
The word discipleship and the word discipline are the same word—that has always fascinated me. Once we have made the choice to say, "Yes, I want to follow Jesus," the questions is, "What disciplines will help me remain faithful to that choice?" If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we have to live a disciplined life.
It takes real discipline to let God and not the world be the Lord of our mind.
A spiritual life without discipline is impossible.
Solitude, community, ministry—these disciplines help us to live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete. (John 15)
(Just a few of the great quotes from the book! You should really check it out!)