When I first read the title of this chapter, I was really excited. Being a natural introvert, I was quite ready to be instructed to spend time alone, reading and gathering my thoughts. I learned after a couple of pages that this chapter isn’t simply about finding “alone time.” Foster says that we can be on a desert island by ourselves and still not find true silence and solitude. He also says it’s quite possible to find real solitude even in a busy crowd. Solitude is a matter of the heart. It’s about allowing space in our hearts and minds for the Holy Spirit to move and speak.
In the study guide for this chapter, Foster says “it is of utmost importance that we do not lose sight of our major work on retreat. It can be said in one word – PRAYER. We enter terrifying silences to listen to God, to experience communion… at first, time thus spent will seem so useless, so wasted. We will soon be severely tempted to ‘make good use of our time’ by reading many books or writing many pages.”
I went camping by myself a few weeks ago, and I had a great time. Looking back on that trip, though, I’m not sure I experienced the solitude I probably needed. During much of my time in the woods, I read and watched movies (really roughing it, I know). It would have certainly benefited me to put away the media and listen. I did pray some, but I think I did most of the talking (a common occurrence in my life).
I want to be more intentional about creating moments of solitude and silence in my life, even if those moments are simply a few minutes during a busy day. And when I find those moments, I’m going to do a little more listening.
1) What is the difference between loneliness and solitude? Which do you experience more?
2) Have you ever experienced a “Dark night of the soul”?
3) What keeps you from solitude?
4) What practical reordering of your life could be done in order to create more space for God?
Daily Scripture Readings
Sunday: The Freedom to control the tongue / James 3:1-12, Luke 23:69
Monday: Prayer and solitude / Matthew 6:5-6, Luke 5:16
Tuesday: The insights of solitude / Psalm 8
Wednesday: “The dark night of the soul” / Jeremiah 20:7-18
Thursday: The solitude of the garden / Matthew 26:36-46
Friday: The solitude of the cross / Matthew 27:32-50
Saturday: The compassion that comes from solitude / Matthew 9:35-38, 23:37