Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, emphasizes the value of solitude as a necessary practice before one is able to give their best to any sort of community.
Our culture doesn’t naturally create space for solitude. Talk to most people, and they would cognitively agree that regular times of solitude make sense: for gaining perspective, catching one’s emotional breath, seeing the bigger picture, etc. We call it “down time,” and usually we all want more of it. A wired, interactive world rages against hitting any sort of pause button. So, solitude can feel like a real gift when we stumble across it or manage to organize and follow through with it.
And yet, solitude too easily gives in to its evil cousin, loneliness. If we approach times of planned solitude with certain issues unsettled, then solitude becomes a scary place filled with fear, paranoia and regret. Sometimes the line between solitude and loneliness can seem razor-thin, and it is easy to have a foot in each sphere all in the same day (and sometimes in the same minute).
Seeking solitude? What are the issues you must resolve right now in order for solitude to be “productive?”
I’m not trying to be contradictory here. By “productive,” I don’t mean leveraging solitude as just another vehicle for getting work done since no one is interrupting. I’m referring to some deep, clear thinking or contemplation, the kind where breakthroughs happen and rivers of joy come rushing forth. Joy that comes from knowing God and, hence, knowing one’s self.
Jesus spoke of staying away from the altar with an offering until a person has resolved an issue with someone close to them. I would say the same thing about approaching solitude and offering one’s self up for deep examination; and, after all, isn’t quality solitude a potential altar to the transcendent?