Today’s post is shared by one of our retreat presenters, Susan Boruff. At this point in the pandemic, many of us are becoming more busy again as activities resume. Are you craving times of silence? Let’s learn more about how solitude can improve many areas of our life.
By: Susan Boruff
“The key to action that knows and cares for the other is to know and care for ourselves. Spending time in solitude is never selfish. It is ultimately the best gift we can give to others.” ~Parker Palmer
Last month, I attended an on-line retreat offered by Mepkin Abbey (a Trappist monastery outside of Charleston, SC). The topic was the Christian Desert Dwellers of the 4th century. These men and women left the cities after Christianity was declared the religion of the state in Rome. They were concerned that the faith would become diluted and corrupt. They gave up their city lives and moved into the deserts of Syria and Egypt. These desert dwellers ultimately became the first monastic communities. They also might be called the Fathers and Mothers of the Contemplative way of life.
Contemplation literally translates as to “dwell in God’s temple.” What is interesting is that these pilgrims sought God in the desert. What does the desert life represent? When we were asked this question at the retreat, one of the attendees described what desert life is like (he had lived in the desert for 20 years). He said the desert life is a life of extremes because of the varying temperatures, it’s a life of profound mystery, open spaces and hidden life. Others commented that it is a place of shadow and purification (coming clean before God). It was also mentioned that the desert can be inhospitable and dangerous. A place where we get in touch with our survival instincts which include our wounds or passions. I commented that it was a place of solitude and silence with just you and God and a place of deep listening. A place of conversion. Our retreat leader, Carl McColman, shared that the desert can represent both the beginning of our faith and spiritual formation.
Many spiritual leaders began their ministry in the desert: Abraham, Mohammad, Moses, Joshua, John the Baptist, St. Paul and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth.
Maybe we can all begin again by entering the desert now. It is in the solitude and silence with Our Lord that we begin to face our demons. I read somewhere, “when we [too] have addressed our demons, we will also know the presence of angels in our life and our heart will beat in unison with the heart of the world.” What a great gift to bring to our world!
Our desire for God ultimately brings us to the knowledge and experience of our oneness with God and all of creation. It is from this place of unity where healing and reconciliation of humanity with humanity can begin.
As we cultivate silence and the ability to listen deeply, we begin to attend and tend to our imperfections; what some call our weaknesses or inner wounds. As we learn to love these parts of us, as God loves, we bring this love out to the world around us. This love is transformational.
Our imperfections ultimately lead us to the way of perfection. The biblical interpretation of the word perfection implies wholeness or completeness. I call it oneness.
It is in the place of wholeness, completeness or oneness with God that the extremes of our lives-our sinfulness and our goodness- are merged. When we merge, with humility, our human condition with divine love, grace, mercy and goodness, our hearts and minds are opened to the profound mystery of God’s love. The hidden life is revealed.
Jesus tells us in Luke 8:17 that there is “nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” He goes on to say to be “careful in how we listen.”
When we learn to sit with our own imperfections and wounds without judgment, but with acceptance, we are inviting Christ to complete us, to heal us so we can bring that healing into the world. This was the point of the fathers and mothers moving to the desert. They became vessels of God’s love. They became known as “healers, not thinkers.” Many Christians sought them out because of their holiness and wisdom.
The practice of silence and solitude is transformational.
We will discover, with deep listening, that we are the light that we have been seeking. And we will put that light on a stand for all who come in to see!
“We must be totally alone with God and with ourselves in order to rebuild and reshape ourselves.” Abba Alonius
To learn more about Susan’s Take Twelve Today’s ministry: www.taketwelvetoday.com.