“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community….Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. . . .Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together
Christians tend to think of solitude in spatial terms, as a place where one can be alone. The spiritual discipline of solitude approaches it as an attitude, as a state of mind. As we apprehend inward solitude we dispense with the normal fear of being alone because we know that we are not alone. We are in the presence of our Savior and as we are quieted our hearing is enhanced. We seek solitude as our Lord did to hear the quiet voice of the Father in the breezes that swirl around us.
Modern culture is especially hostile to solitude. Not only are we bombarded everywhere at every moment with dozens of noise and distractions, our constant connectivity has made us ever more reliant upon our ability to communicate with words. We struggle with silence, Foster reminds us, because it strips us of the power of our words. Without our words we feel out of control and as though we are unable to justify ourselves.
One of the primary fruits of seeking solitude is that we will become free to let God be our justifier. Stripped of our feeble language we must trust in the God who is our rock, our defender and redeemer. We start with small steps seeking out little moments of peace in which we deliberately commune with God. We learn to trust the silence and let go of our need for words. A place of solitude can be sought out to not only be quiet, but to place ourselves far from others as our lifeline recedes in the distance. Alone in the silence, we have no way to hide among the rocks and can truly be confronted by God.