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Loneliness vs. Solitude

10 Sep Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Loneliness vs. Solitude
Loneliness vs. Solitude
 

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone.  It has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone.  And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” – Paul Tillich

My husband and I moved to Pennsylvania when our children were 5 and 3 years old.  We knew not a single soul.  He moved right into a career and I moved into a house with two little ones to care for.  No extended family, no friends, no church.  It was a tough time.  To say I was lonely was an understatement.  Away from family and established groups of friends, it was easy to feel isolated and alone in this new chapter of my life. It took several years to create some meaningful friendships and fill that hole of loneliness.

Then, a few years later, we found a church we liked and became deeply involved.  Needless to say, with no family in the area, the church became our family.  Within five years, we found ourselves needing to leave that church, for the health of our marriage and once again, I felt incredibly lonely. I felt as if the loneliness, the pain would swallow me.  Although I could not have articulated it then, I now know that in the midst of that deep, painful, alone place, God was drawing me closer.

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For years I would avoid being alone, preferring to have someone around me all the times. Looking back, it’s easy to understand way. Loneliness reminded me of those painful moments, those times of disconnection.

Then, about ten years ago I was introduced to solitude as a spiritual practice.  I resisted it, thinking it was only for those introvert types but, after some time, decided to give it a try.  And in the silence, surprise, surprise – I began to have a sense of peace and a sense of God’s still small voice speaking to me.  Now, I choose solitude – the practice of not being in the presence of other people so I can be alone with God.  It is a formative place.  It is where I am renewed and refreshed so that I can go back out into the world and be present to and for others.

What are some differences between loneliness and solitude?

  • Loneliness is epidemic in our world.  We can feel lonely in a room full of people.  We can feel so disconnected from others.  What we truly long for and struggle to find is connection, true connection, to meet our desire for intimacy.
  • Solitude is rare in our world.  It is a choice we make to create room in our spirits for God to dwell, to work.  It is a place where we sit with God….a place to connect with Him and allow intimacy to develop.
  • Loneliness is inner emptiness.
  • Solitude is inner fulfillment.
  • Loneliness is pain.
  • Solitude is glory.
  • Loneliness is a place of hollowness.
  • Solitude is a place of formation.

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“Loneliness and solitude are two things not to get confused
‘Cause I spend my solitude with you.” – Relient K “Therapy”

I invite you to spend some time today in solitude, asking God to create a place of formation inside of you, where your relationship with him may deepen and grow, where you have a sense of abiding peace and where you can hear His still small voice.

Deb Turnow
Executive Director at Kavanna House
Deb Turnow is the Executive Director of Kavanna House, a spiritual formation center in York, Pa. Prior to that role, she was the Director of Spiritual Direction at Living Word Community Church in York. She has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from York College in Pennsylvania and a M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Arbor University. She is also a graduate of the Spiritual Guidance Program at Shalem Institute. She is currently studying at San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is a certified spiritual director and also provides supervision for spiritual directors. She and her husband Jeff, live in York, PA.