Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


Solitude & Community

I've been reading a slim book by Henri Nouwen in my devotions this week. It's called Making All Things New. Boy did I ever need this book. Nouwen's thesis is simple - we modern folk are hurried and guilty and confused as to what ministry, work, or good we ought to accomplish because we fail to understand the central idea of the Christian faith. That idea is that we are called into just the same intimate fellowship with the Father as that which Jesus embodied throughout his life on earth. A closeness of love, a communion in which we are known, but also in which we listen, constantly, to the Father. And only when we have heard His voice and been nourished in his love, do we act, help, work, speak, or do. This means so much to me. To know that I am not called to be exhausted and busy, but to listen deeply, and act from that quiet. To know that I was made to love from within God's perfect love, not out of my own frail heart. Nouwen's two basic disciplines for reaching that place of communion and steadfastness with God are those of solitude and community. Both, he say, create a silence in which God speaks. His thoughts have challenged me and shaped my ideas about how I want to live when I get home. Here are a few quotes from the book. May they nourish your heart on this Sabbath day as they did mine:

"We will never understand the full meaning of Jesus' richly varied ministry until we see how the many things are rooted in the one thing: listening to the Father in the intimacy of perfect love. When we see this, we will also realize that the goal of Jesus' ministry is nothing less than to bring us into this most intimate community."

"Once the solitude of time and space has become a solitude of the heart, we will never have to leave that solitude. We will be able to live the spiritual life in any time and in any place. Thus, the discipline of solitude enables us to live active lives in the world, while remaining always in the presence of the living God."

"Friendship, marriage, family, religious life, and every other form of community is solitude greeting solitude, spirit speaking to spirit, and heart calling to heart. It is the grateful recognition of God's call to share life together and the joyful offering of a hospitable space where the recreating power of God's Spirit can become manifest. Thus, all forms of life together can become ways to reveal to each other the real presence of God in our midst."

"The discipline of community makes us persons; that is, people who are sounding through to each other (the Latin word personare means "sounding through" a truth, a beauty, and a love which is greater, fuller, and richer than we ourselves can grasp. In true community we are windows constantly offering each other new views on the mystery of God's presence in our lives."
.-Henri Nouwen
Sarah Clarkson4 Comments