The 1 Way to Turn Loneliness into Solitude

This blog is one of a series inspired by Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. Chapter 3, “Moon Shell” launched my thinking. Read other posts in this series, here, or here, or here.

loneliness vs. solitude

Solitary Moon Shell

“Now instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

Constant Noise

Anne’s words were written almost 60 years ago, when noise and distractions were tied down with wires and “friend” was a noun. I imagine that Anne Lindbergh would be gratified to know that she detected a trend decades before it became a serious epidemic. Our grandmothers needed to re-learn to be alone. We need to learn it for the first time.

I have a theory that underneath our addiction to smart phones and social media and noise in general is fear. We fear loneliness. Most every woman I know is lonely. Those who are never still and never alone may be the loneliest. I know lonely men too. Loneliness is an inner emptiness, an ache to matter, to belong, to be valued, cherished.

Loneliness

Most of us look first to romance or to other relationships to fill the emptiness, but even the best man cannot fill the empty ache of a soul.

Evil uses rejection and loneliness to whisper familiar damaging lies, “you are unwelcome, you are have nothing to offer, you are unattractive.” I have always been blessed with many people to love. Always, most of them love me back. Somehow I am tempted to give greater weight to the few who don’t return my love than to the many. Each time these old wounds are stirred up I seem to fall prey to the lies and then to the emptiness. I overreact internally and grow angry or I turn the anger inward and sink into depression. I try too hard to please and in the process I allow my boundaries to disappear. To stop the downward spiral I have to consciously identify lies that whisper to my inner recesses and reject them. I have to seek truth and love and life from the one who is the truth and the life, from the God who is love. I wish this blog came from lessons I mastered long ago, but that wouldn’t be true. I’m still enrolled, against my will, in a summer-school review of distinguishing truth from old lies.

Prompted by fear of rejection or fear of what pain might surface if we stand still for a moment, some of us turn to careers or to mothering or both. We think that if we are very important or very busy or very needed we will be distracted from the loneliness. Others withdraw, either physically or emotionally pulling away rather than risking in relationships.

God however is still doing what he does. He takes what Satan means for evil and uses it for good.

He uses loneliness to trim away things we wrongly put in first place in our lives so that he can woo us to himself and fill the space that only he can fill.

He transforms loneliness into solitude, inner emptiness into inner fullness.

Never Alone

In his excellent book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says,

“Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart than can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness. It is quite possible to be a desert hermit and never experience solitude. But if we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of the noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart.”

 

He goes on to point out that Jesus lived in inward solitude but also frequently sought outward solitude, getting up early, going to deserts and ‘lonely places’ in order to find it.

The point of seeking solitude is to hush the noise around and inside us so that we can better hear the voice of God. He often whispers and rarely shouts. Solitude exposes the lies repeated in loneliness and replaces them with truth.

Nothing can destroy me because in life or even in death I am in God’s hands.

No one can control me because I am steadied from the relationship at my center.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh says,

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary and how impossible of attainment…By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off…If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt.”

 

Once again her words are more true now than they were when she wrote them. Women still mother and do housework, but in our days many also provide the household income. How could a woman who gives and gives and gives possibly find time for solitude? How, I wonder, could she possibly ever be strong and replenished if she does not?

Talk about it on my Facebook page.

I have pinned a few of my favorite creative solitude pursuits on Pinterest.

Anne Lindbergh suggested simple creative pursuits, like arranging flowers or writing poetry in addition to contemplation and prayer. I also dabble in creative things as part of my worship. So here’s my question. Do you find time for solitude? How often? When? Do you pursue creativity in your solitude?

I recently read Celebration of Discipline for the first time. I put it off for many years because I hate the title, but it really is a terrific book. It is about relationship with God. It is not, as I thought, a legalistic list of things to do to reinforce false spirituality. I also encourage you to check out Richard Foster’s ministry, Renovare.

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5 Responses to The 1 Way to Turn Loneliness into Solitude

  1. Christine July 19, 2014 at 2:41 am #

    Your musings on loneliness, solitude and typical ways of managing or coping with the pain are so familiar, and somehow comforting reading…

    • Beth Ratzlaff July 19, 2014 at 8:37 am #

      I’m glad to know I’m not alone! 🙂

  2. Merrie Lea July 18, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    Wonderful words, I love the verse, cease striving and know that I am God. It takes some quiet and some alone time for me to renew. Thanks for stating so beautifully how important this is!

    • Beth Ratzlaff July 19, 2014 at 8:36 am #

      Yes, I read today that meditation even helps brain health. We were designed I think to need time alone with our maker.

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