So I’m here in Tulsa and having a good vacation. I’ve been hanging out with my Mom, catching some Zz’s, and reading Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. I’ve read it before, but the NightWatch leadership team has been assigned to read it again, and I have to say it’s quite timely for me.
The prologue of the book speaks of Abba Arsenius, who heard the Lord say to him, “Arsenius, flee from the world and you will be saved… Flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the sources of sinlessness.” This sets the groundwork for the structure of the book, which is centered around solitude, silence, and prayer.
So far I’ve read the section on solitude. I was awake by myself in the house at the time, and so it especially touched me. And by that, I mean it convicted me and I realized I need to work on it a lot more. Solitude does not mean just taking time to be alone — although I would like to state that for us introverts, that still needs to happen every once in a while — but it means coming face to face with what’s really going on in our hearts. We spend so much time busy and preoccupied that we don’t give adequate time to considering either God’s goodness or our own need for Him. Which runs into dysfunction really fast.
Nouwen describes solitude as dying to our false self. “In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me — naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken — nothing” (p. 27).
Yet this is not simply introspection and self-improvement. “Anyone who wants to fight his demons with his own weapons is a fool. The wisdom of the desert is that the confrontation with our own frightening nothingness forces us to surrender ourselves totally and unconditionally to the Lord Jesus Christ… Only in and through him can we survive the trials of our solitude.
Basically, to me, solitude means shutting everything off to pray for awhile. I desperately want to be better about fighting for that time to just be before the Lord, allowing Him to search my heart when I have nothing to medicate my inner pain and nothing to hide behind. I’ve been able to touch that a bit while I’m here, and it’s actually been very sweet. God is very kind and He knows just how to handle my heart.
(P.S. To my team: I watched you guys at the Tuesday midnight, and I have to say you all rock.)