Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there any space for that in your life?
Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It's important because it's the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you "my beloved daughter," "my beloved son," "my beloved child." To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.
Now this is not easy. Jesus spent the night in prayer. That's a picture of the fact that prayer is not something you always feel. It's not a voice you always hear with these ears. It's not always an insight that suddenly comes to you in your little mind. (God's heart is greater than the human heart,
God's mind is greater than the human mind, and God's light is so great that it might blind you and make you feel like you're in the night.)
But you have to pray. You have to listen to the voice who calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, for success. And then you're not free.
The trouble is, as soon as you sit and become quiet, you think, Oh, I forgot this. I should call my friend. Later on I'm going to see him. Your inner life is like a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down.
It's not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you— not as a magical voice but that he will let you know something gradually over the years. And in that word from God you will find the inner place from which to live your life.
Solitude is where spiritual ministry begins. That's where Jesus listened to God. That's where we listen to God.
Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes. In the middle is the hub. Often in ministry, it looks like we are running around the rim trying to reach everybody. But God says, "Start in the hub; live in the hub. Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you won't have to run so fast.”
It's precisely in the hub, in that communion with God, that we discover the call to community. It's remarkable that solitude always calls us to community. In solitude you realize you're part of a human family and that you want to lift something together.
By community, I don't mean formal communities. I mean families, friends, parishes, twelve step programs, prayer groups. Community is not an organization; community is a way of living: you gather around you people with whom you want to proclaim the truth that we are the beloved sons and
daughters of God.
― Henri J.M. Nouwen