The discipline of solitude. I hate being alone. Being alone signifies loneliness, being deserted. Therefore, while I have times where I am physically alone, I’m never really alone. There is always something like activity, the TV, music, a show, etc. to keep me safe from this terrifying proposition. It wasn’t until last week that I began to realize this and just how far down it had spread in my being.
Peter Pan culture. We treasure youth and vitality. So much so, that we allow middle-aged men and women to act as children without so much as batting an eye. We value this youth over true health, but why? We have lost faith in the pillars of society such as government and traditional values and all we need hope, so we find that in empty and often misleading success and vitality. Yet, they only go skin deep. To go any further would bring up things that would only serve to damper that dimly glimmering hope; looking too closely at our hearts can only slow us down.
Time in the desert. What do the stories of Moses, Paul, Jesus and John the Baptist all have in common? Before they could begin their ministry, before they could begin living out their ultimate purposes, they had to spend varying times in the desert. Alone. I read this last week and immediately shrugged off this fact. That’s when it hit me: we’ve lost the ability to be brave and willingly walk out into the desert. Why? We know that we will have to face our demons, the devil, satan, evil, whatever you want to call it. And we don’t know if we’ll make it back out alive.
Why the desert? First of all, we are confronting our innermost issues. We need a place where we have the space and quiet to undertake this process. Also, we need to be alone. It’s your heart here, no one else’s. You’re not alone. I just contradicted myself, but really I didn’t. Physically, we are alone, but God is right with us in this process. Step by step, he does not forsake. Finally, purposeful people aren’t pieces of men and women carrying around boulders of doubt and guilt. No, they are whole with lightened loads (notice I didn’t say they were without).
Where have we strayed? Admitting imperfection today is merely a coverup to hide what’s really going on in our hearts. Truly inspecting our brokenness, we would serve to undermine the hope and strength we cherish in the individual. Seeing that we are cracked and torn takes a jackhammer to the new pillar of our society. Admitting that the almighty I is but a facade, is telling the emperor he has no clothes. No one wants to be that person. Yet, is imperfection weakness? Is desiring to fix it and be whole an act of cowardice?
Give me weakness. If the answers to these questions are “yes,” then I have only the words of Paul for you, “…Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Corinthinans 12:9b) I boast because I’ve seen that only through the acknowledgment of weakness can it be overcome by the grace and mercy of God. Only by seeing weakness for what it truly is can we appreciate strength. The only caveat is to get there, it requires the discipline of solitude.