Personally, I crave solitude. I'm one who can easily drive for hours without a radio on. I can be in my house all day without additional sounds. A walk in the woods and a stroll on a beach are all up my alley.
In spite of my being a public "noisy" person, I am indeed, much more of an introvert than people realize. Large groups drain me after a while and I get re-energized by being alone. I process things better by thinking and writing and not necessarily by talking them out.
This whole topic of solitude reminded me of how Richard Foster wrote of the solitude in his book, "The Celebration of Discipline." This was in his chapter on the formation prayer.
Solitude is the first and the most foundational of these approaches. ‘Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life,’ writes Henri Nouwen. The reason for this is simple to see: by means of solitude God frees us from our bondage to people and our own inner compulsions.
To enter solitude, we must disregard what others think of us. Who will understand this call total oneness? Even our closest friends will see it as a waste of precious time and rather self-centered. But, oh, the liberty that is released in our hearts when we let go of the opinions of others! The less we are mesmerized by human voices,the more we are able to hear the Divine Voice. The less we are manipulated by the expectations of others, the more we are open to the expectations of God.
In solitude, however, we die not only to others, but also to ourselves. To be sure, at first we thought solitude was a way to recharge our batteries in order to enter life’s many competitions with new vigor and strength. In time, however,we find that solitude gives us power not to win the rat race, but to ignore the rat race altogether. Slowly we find ourselves letting go of our inner compulsions to acquire more wealth than we need, look more youthful than we are, attain more status than is wise. In the stillness, our false, busy selves are unmasked and seen for the imposters they truly are.
St.Jerome reminds us that we are ‘never less alone than when alone.’ I invite you into this communion of solitude."
It's hard to let go of expectations we have of ourselves. To let go of the feeling to meet all the expectations of others. To be frank, to think that we can do so is to set ourselves up for failure. We anguish over the perfect gift, the perfect meal, the perfect atmosphere, the perfect experience. We fear that if things aren't perfect then we, personally, are responsible for the emotions of those around us.
We're not. Anything done with love should be considered perfect. We are not responsible for how others react if we have prepared for them with love.
I encourage you at some point before Christmas, to find some time for solitude. Carve out at least a half hour to sit in the moment and to breathe in and relax. If this were to be your last Christmas, how would you want it to be spent? What would you want final memories to be? Frantic haste? Or that of peace throughout the season?
One of the most famous Christmas greetings says, "Do not be afraid! I bring you tidings of great joy for all people! Glory to God in the highest ... peace and goodwill to all." (Luke 2:10, 14)
As we continue through this joy-filled celebration, I hope to keep my eyes on the reason for the joy. May peace fill my heart and yours as well.