“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passersby see only a wisp of smoke coming through the chimney, and go along their way. Look here, now what must be done? Must one tend the inner fire, have salt in oneself, wait patiently yet with how much impatience for the hour when somebody will come and sit down – maybe to stay? Let him who believes in God wait for the hour that will come sooner or later.”
– Vincent van Gogh
“It is in solitude that we become compassionate people, deeply aware of our solidarity in brokenness with all of humanity and ready to reach out to anyone in need.”
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
As of late, I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart, which explores the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the fourth century who sought the monastic life by retreating to the Egyptian desert. Nouwen focuses on three practices that are central to spiritual growth – solitude, silence, and prayer. As I have reflected on these things, the truth of his words resonates in my soul.
Solitude is something I’ve grown to value so much over the past few years. It provides a space for the noise of my heart – cries that I am unable to express in words. But more than that, it allows for me to set these captive cries free and to silence my soul. It is in that silence that I most clearly hear God speak into my life.
Reading about silence and solitude has made me homesick for Oregon. I truly appreciate that I have been educated and nurtured in the Quaker tradition, which values silence more than most other denominations. It’s really true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I am over two thousand miles away from George Fox, and it is only now that I am beginning to realize how fond I am of that spiritual environment. Here in Georgia, my life has been rich in other ways. Yet I have been so incredibly busy that I must intentionally seek of times of solitude each day.
This Friday, we will partake in a “solitude retreat” at a camp called Indian Springs. I’m not exactly sure what we will be doing, but I anticipate that we will be spending much of our time in solitude in the depth of the woods. I am oh-so-excited, as nowhere brings me as much restoration as the woods. While I spend an entire day in solitude, I encourage you to seek out solitude and silence, and to soak in the restoration that it may bring you.
From Atlanta, with Love
P.S. I spent a few hours of solitude in Piedmont Park last week. It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. Let me share it’s beauty with you…