Posts Tagged ‘solitude’

Lonely or Alone – There Is A Big Difference

October 6, 2016

Here I am again in this mean old town
And you’re so far away from me
And where are you when the sun goes down
You’re so far away from me

So far away from me
So far I just can’t see
So far away from me
You’re so far away from me

–Dire Straits

Have you ever felt lonely? Not just a fleetingĀ  sense of being alone, maybe on a trip. But really lonely. The kind you feel in your gut. The kind that just settles into your bones like a cold drizzle in the late fall.

I imagine that it is a rare human who has never felt that. But it could just be me.

David put it in a Psalm (22)–kind of a prayer wrapped in a song. Jesus quoted this song just before he died.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

It doesn’t have to end there. I’ve been reading lately in some books on personal psychology. Studies are showing that you need to somehow, slowly begin to make decisions. Decide to go out, for example. Talk to the local barista. Someone.

David didn’t end with that deep feeling. He remembered what God had set before him. The promises that God would fulfill if David kept his end. He wrote later (23)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

We sense the presence of God. We release the feelings of loneliness.

Paradoxically, we sense the presence of God often by being alone. Remember how Jesus often withdrew from the group to go off to a lonely spot to be alone with his Father? When we go off to be alone with the Father in prayer or meditation, it actually works to bring us out of that shell of loneliness. We can also then go out and meet people.

Why Practice Spiritual Disciplines of Abstinence

March 17, 2016

Remember the old Southwest Airlines commercial “Wanna get away”? For my international readers–Someone would be pictured in a position, for example, a football referee before a big match for the coin toss and he forgot to bring a coin, who wanted to get away. It resonated no doubt because we all want to escape at times.

The Desert Fathers were men who sought deep spiritual experiences and encounters with God. They thought that by going off alone into the deserts of Egypt, Sinai, Syria, they could get away from society and focus with every second of their being on God.

The movement began in the mid-200s and lasted into the 400s–but in some sense still exists in the monastic traditions.

They practiced the spiritual disciplines of abstinence–solitude, silence, simplicity, sacrifice, fasting–almost too well. The monastic movement struggled for centuries against excesses of this practice.

The disciplines of abstinence are meant to prepare us to encounter and engage with God. Jesus, for example, went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days following his baptism. Then he encountered temptation. It wasn’t because he was weak from lack of food that he had the experiences. It was actually because he was now at his strongest so that he could deal with The Tempter.

Spiritual literature loves the metaphor of the jar.

You have something you need to store. You search for an empty container. There are many containers in your cupboard filled with now-useless stuff. But you have no container for your precious stuff. You empty a jar of its useless contents, and now it is ready to accept the new.

Just so is your mind and soul. When it is full of thoughts, worries, plans, and more, it has no room for God.

Now we intentionally pursue disciplines of abstinence to pour out the extraneous stuff of our lives. Only then is there room in our soul for God.

Dallas Willard puts it this way, “Abstinence then makes way for engagement. A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagementsĀ  so that the soul can be properly engaged by God.”

That’s why following silence with study is so powerful.