The Discipline of Solitude

Getting away from the podium and into God's presence.

Recently, as I prepared to leave for a retreat I was leading for a group of pastors and hospital chaplains, I realized how tired I was, how desperate I was for intimacy with God, and how much I needed the very things I would be guiding others into that day.

After 25 years in ministry, I had learned to pay attention to such inner dynamics and knew not to wait for a "better" time. When the retreat was over, I left immediately for my own retreat destination to enter into 24 hours of solitude and silence.

That choice alone changed the tenor of the week and the whole month that followed. In solitude, I was able to be with God and with what was true about me in utter privacy. There was time and space to attend to what was real in my own life — to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, sit with my questions, attend to my loneliness, shed my tears — and allow God to be with me in those places.

This was not primarily a time for problem-solving or fixing — because not everything can be fixed or solved. It was a time just to "keep still" and wait for God to accomplish what was most needed in my life. It was a very deep kind of rest indeed.

One of the most important disciplines of my life as a person in ministry is a constant rhythm of solitude and community, stillness and action, engagement and retreat. I need times when I am not "on" and I do not have to be any particular way for anyone, times when I can be alone in God's presence for my own soul's sake.

One of the most sobering truths about life in leadership is that I can be very busy and look very important, yet be out of touch with that place in the center of my being where I know who I am in God and what he has called me to do — that place where I am responsive ...

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The Discipline of Solitude
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