I began reading a book by Ruth Haley Barton titled: Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. I did not know what to expect once I began reading it, I had only once heard someone quote a passage from the book and I was not familiar with the author.
It did not take long for me to see that there were many lines and paragraphs in this little book that seemed written just for me. In the first half of the book the word solitude jumped off the pages at me more than once. I have now found myself profoundly drawn to the practice of spending time alone with God.
Two quotes from the book (among many others) have stood out in my mind; and I have been mulling over these two quotations for the past several days.
"One of the primary functions of solitude is to settle into ourselves in God's presence. This is not easy and it takes time. But it is the answer to the heart cry that erupts when we have been distracted for too long by surface concerns. "I have lost myself!" we cry. Solitude is the only way to find ourselves again. And the longer we have been lost to ourselves, caught up with external stimulation, the longer it takes to find our way home again." (Page 41)
"Our transformation is never for ourselves alone. It is always for the sake of others." (Page 74)
These two quotes have resonated with me this past week because I have been preparing for the final sermon of a three part series on Jonah. The fourth and final chapter of the book of Jonah is a window into Jonah's heart and mind while in a time of solitude with God. I have always read this last chapter of Jonah's Journey as if it were merely a record of complaints, but I realize now that it is an example of a person in solitude with God - dealing with the deep dark stuff inside himself.
Solitude with God has a way of revealing to us what is going on down in the depths of our souls and what things we have not really dealt with yet...but need to.