3.7.06

Fighting solitude - Jesus Army Life, Day 343

Solitude is the place where we can reach the profound bond that is deeper than the emergency bonds of fear and anger. Although fear and anger can indeed drive us together, they cannot give rise to a common witness. In solitude we can come to the realization that we are not driven together but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not as partners who can satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God's all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not a common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realize that community is not made but given.

Solitude, then, is not private time in contrast to time together, nor a time to restore our tired minds. Solitude is very different from a time-out from community life. Solitude is the ground from which community grows. When we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we enter into a deeper intimacy with each other...

Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, 1979, p13.

I don't get it? How can solitude lead to community, bonding, finding brothers and sisters? I heard this passage read twice now and each time I haven't understood it. In fairness though I don't think they ever read the last sentence - that explains Nouwen's thinking more. But other people still seem to have keyed into it where I've been feeling left angry and frustrated.

There's an internal reaction within me that means I already don't want to listen to arguments on solitude. An explosion has gone off inside of me each time I've heard that passage and I'm not exactly sure why.

Nouwen is a great writer. He's been described as the leading Catholic intellect of the last century. I've got a lot of time for him, particularly his arguments about fear. But here I find myself disagreeing with him. Perhaps it's because he describes solitude through paradox - that makes it confusing, and admittedly I need to read the book the passage comes from, but then also there's that internal reaction...

I've noticed it before. Of all the people in my community home I'm the person who spends least time alone where it can be helped. I'm almost never in my bedroom during the day. I don't like being there, I want to be where the life is. Personally I do like having time to think and pray, maybe to read, the space to imagine. Nouwen makes sense there, community does exist because of a higher purpose, something that transcends it - it doesn't just exist in and of itself. I guess I just react at the idea of glorifying in solitude - I hate the thought.

Okay, introspective moment: I've always felt alone. At school I had a few mates but always searched for a close friend, it became a fruitlesdisastrousous quest for popularity. At home, things sometimes felt like an emotional wasteland, actually they often felt that way. I'm not good at recognising my emotions, in love I was never sure I wanted to be in that relationship (there are a lot of factors I'm missing out here, but I'm just joining strands together). I remember when I became a Christian it felt like a dam of emotions burst open, I remember feeling at times so angry when Christians didn't love each other, I remember feeling so alone at times. At my lowest point I knew it was because I felt alone. And now, living in community, which I love, with friends whom I adore I still feel partly isolated, incomplete, alone.

I love life, I love people, I love my Jesus, but this is one area of my life where there seems to be a gaping wound - even living in community - I don't understand it. I don't think marriage is a total solution. All I can do at this point is ask God to come in to this situation, point things out, make things clear, and trust him to do the work in me that he needs to do.