Rev. Annemarie S. Kidder, who holds a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delves into the importance of solitude in "The Power of Solitude: Discovering Your True Self in a World of Nonsense and Noise." Solitude isn't highly valued in our society. As Eugene H. Peterson writes in the "Foreward," "We thrive on numbers and noise." Yet more and more people, perhaps because of all the noise, are rediscovering its treasure.
Jesus offers us the example of solitude. "Physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted by the crowds that pursued him wherever he went. Jesus regularly sought out a time and place apart. In communion with God in solitude from his demanding everyday life, he refreshed his body and spirit so he could continue his work with those seekers of healing and hope who crowded around him." Embracing solitude allows us to "connect with God" as well. Even in marriage, the most intimate of human relationships, we are called to have that space apart from the other and to respect the other's solitude as well.
Kidder discusses our longing for connection. At the core of that longing is our desire to be reunited with God. In this world, however, we often try to fill that longing with replacements that never quite measure up. While not devaluing marriage, she does offer a criticism of romantic love. "Romantic love and its accompanying illusions draw us away from our center, from the soul's availability to God, from connecting with God in the here and now in a joyous and playful way." She does make quite the case for celibacy for spiritual reasons.
Kidder then moves into a discussion of solitude as a Christian lifestyle, beginning with the desert fathers and mothers and then the move into monastic communities. For those of us outside of religious communities, the season of Lent can provide an opportunity to embrace some of that lifestyle. "By eating less, doing less, and doing with less, they were brought face-to-face with the powers and demons that owned them, the habits that controlled them, and the possessions and attachments that had taken precedence over the place of God in Christ."
Yet, despite her emphasis on solitude, Kidder also acknowledges our need to be part of the larger Christian community. Through communal worship, for example, we are placed in "the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It takes a visit onsite to experience the messiness of human vehicles acting as divine messengers and unpredictable, yet irreversibly appointed, members of Christ's body." In addition, we are called to practice the works of mercy for our fellow humans, a call which of necessity brings us into community with others.
"The Power of Solitude" is an interesting, readable work. It offers an antidote to the craziness of our world, and encourages us to reclaim this important aspect of our being.