Up until my senior year of high school, I lived on a farm in Central Oregon. With rare exceptions, my friends were a long-distance phone call away, so during the summer and school holidays, solitude (with the exception of my immediate family) was my constant companion.
What can one learn from solitude? From silence?
When you are alone, you learn to hear your own voice. It is my opinion that the ability to hear one’s own voice helps us discern God’s voice when He speaks.
Solitude shows us our fallibility. If my kids are any indication, people have a natural propensity to argue – or maybe it’s just our gene line. In solitude, you have no one to argue with but yourself. Have you ever listened to yourself think? Have you ever contemplated whether you are really right, or if there might be another approach?
Solitude and the resounding silence leave room for wonder and imagination. God is much bigger than you or I. His perspective is completely foreign to us. In silence, we are able to reach beyond the noise in our own head and imagine. We expand our thinking and make room for God’s perspective. We hear His voice and consider His ways.
Silence teaches us the power of words. I know that I have a natural tendency to yammer. My friends tell me this isn’t the case – but they don’t hear the conversation in my head – they just hear the edited version that exits my mouth. This self editing is a skill that is learned through silence. Words have power. We can let them flow, fully diluted, or we can use them selectively and have maximum impact.
Solitude is where we are transformed. Jesus spent time alone with God. When we spend time alone with God, we are changed. More time alone with Him means we give Him more time to transform us into the people we were created to be.
When you are constantly in community, talking, you are producing. Eventually, you have produced everything you have that is original. In order to recharge, you have to step aside to a place of solitude and silence, where the breeze blows fresh perspectives and offers new insights.
Here are some intriguing quotes:
The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude, and the society of thyself. – Sir Thomas Browne
Solitude shows us what should be; society shows us what we are. – Robert Cecil