“Let him who cannot be alone be aware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone….”
“Each by itself (personal solitude and community fellowship) has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self infatuation, and despair.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together pp.77-78
What place should spiritual solitude and the church small group picnic have in the prioritization of the spiritual disciplines? I am balanced by the words and works of our Lord “Love God, Love People” (Matt 22:36-40) is a catch phrase that is easy to remember and daily to develop. Ultimately, no one can have intimacy with Christ without intimacy in fellowship because you forsake one by over indulging the other. Humanly speaking, individuals are prone to side predominately on one side of this spiritual equilibrium. Either they are addicted to people and neglect personal intersession with Christ, or they love divine intersession but pridefully navigate through life only from their perspective. Christ calibrates for the Christian a divine equilibrium in Loving God to Love others for His glory. Understanding that both knowledge and wisdom are required of the children of God, how can one pursue one without seemingly forsaking the other?
It light of that…let’s think about spiritual solitude.
I am becoming more convinced that the purpose and design for solitude is to develop the Christian for fellowship in community (first Christian then secular)….not for some personally exclusive spiritual health. Solitude in Word and prayer empowers the Christian to be Christian. Acquiring doctrine can not be the end goal, the applying doctrine is. I enter solitude to center the desires of my heart on the unfolding plan of redemption with the purpose of then participating in it (I Peter 1-2; I John 4:11-12). It is from these times of regular personal interaction with the Word and Spirit that I can, with Christ-centered boldness, navigate life and community.
One can observe this modeled in the life of Christ. Frequently, he goes away for solitude especially before and after times of intentional and intense fellowship and engaging community. If the point of solitude was designed exclusively to progress in personal consecration why would Christ desire it/need it? Rather, we see Christ engage his heart in divine fellowship with the Father empowered to present the kingdom to others in both word and deed.
Let us remind ourselves these questions:
Why am I not pursuing regular spiritual solitude? Am I proactively looking for ways to apply biblical truth? Which is easier…solitude or community? How can I bring my solitude to community? Why am I going to solitude?