Following up from my recent blog series, My Spiritual Formation Journey, I am sharing some additional throughts while reading books from Thomas Merton, Ajith Fernando, and Henri Nouwen.
Merton’s thoughts this week reflect the joy and happiness he found in solitude after faithfully being a monk. He writes, “what more do I seek than this silence, this simplicity, this ‘living together with wisdom’? For me there is nothing else. It is the pinnacle . . . . solitude really means: when the ropes are cast off and the skiff is no longer tied to land but heads out to sea without any ties, without restraints!” (p. 30 of Bridges to Contemplative Living). He seems very excited about this “solitude” thing that he has discovered.
After reading about Merton’s joy of solitude and Fernando’s encouragement for leaders to teach their disciples what they need to know before ministry, I have been thinking about how these lessons apply to my own life as a leader. Fernando encourages leaders that they “will also need to equip their children [disciples] to face the dangers in the world” (p. 172). Fernando continues by writing, “If we are to be leaders then, we should make the pursuit of joy an important aspect of our lives” (p. 177). The learning point for me here is that as disciples and young leaders who are being “spiritually formed” we need to be warned of what can hurt us (by those leaders) and encouraged to do the things that help us find joy (by those same leaders). This brings to mind the feelings Amy has shared about not being taught “self-care” by her teachers while in training to become a nurse. Those teachers should have been teaching her about the practices that would bring her joy in her work and what would allow her to avoid what might hurt her. On the flip side, Merton is encouraging us in the same way that solitude can provide that joy we need in ministry.
The joy we gain through solitude can be exciting and be, as Merton calls it, “the pinnacle” of our faith.
Question: Do you enjoy solitude and time alone? Why or why not?