Do You Know How to Find Solace in Solitude?
“With a tone of gentleness and love, [Saint Aloysius] answered, ‘Time does not stand still. Fear alone causes you to feel the sting of earth. Try to rise above the sting of attachment. Then you will better follow the Master’s desires for you. The burning in your soul is the effect of repeated disappointments in life haunting you, causing you to offer excuses by the hour, thus doing violence to time and merit. Disappointments burning like stubble in your soul are like pagan fires burning before foreign gods. Cease now to honor useless gods. Rise above them by the hour as lessons for humility. The sting of earth when buried in the cloak of humility is dead. It is noiseless unless you allow fear to awaken it. Come with me into the heights of thine own soul where darker musings fade away.’” —From Gems by Cora Evans
Solace in Solitude
Time does not stand still.
“Time is a sacrament of your meeting with God and his mercy, with his love for you and his desire that everything work toward your good.” – Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
Isn’t it interesting to call time a “sacrament” of meeting God? If it is, in fact, a sacrament, then time is holy. It is a sacrosanct space we must create and defend for what brings us life.
I’ve thought a lot about time lately, mostly because no one seems to have any, myself included. We recently welcomed our third daughter into our family, and everything is in complete upheaval with a newborn’s schedule. As parents, my husband and I have once again lost our “time,” that period each day we could count on to be slower, a space we set aside for quiet reading, connecting with each other for conversation, and prayer. But time, since it passes so quickly, has become more precious and valuable to us again.
My spiritual director once told me that God gives us Kairos time, that is to say, His time. As humans, we live and operate in Chronos time, which is chronological. But God operates outside of time, though He enters into it. His time, therefore, is how we are able to accomplish what needs to be completed. When we defend space for listening to Him and entering into holy conversation with Him, He also grants us the ability to somehow do more than we imagined possible.
“It is in solitude that [God] speaks to the heart of his spouse, which is to say that he makes her not only to hear, but also to appreciate his lessons.” – St. Claude de la Colombière
I’ve noticed, in the wee hours of early morning when the world is fast asleep and I am awake with our 6-week-old baby girl, that quiet opens up that space that allows my heart to stand still and hear God more readily. There is a natural receptivity in our souls when we enter into solitude, a receptivity that cannot occur amidst constant noise, busyness, and daily distractions.
God speaks to our hearts when we intentionally discipline ourselves to set aside everything else and make our relationship with Him a priority. And there, in that stillness, He gently nudges us with conversations of love.
Detachment from the World
Try to rise above the sting of attachment. Then you will better follow the Master’s desires for you.
“God writes upon our hearts the knowledge of his will.” – St. Cyril of Alexandria
Detachment involves selflessness and sacrifice, relinquishing the “ego” in favor of the other. Too often, I become anxious and fearful based on my worldly attachments. I compare myself to other writers and find myself discouraged, knowing I am but a guppy in this vast ocean of whales and dolphins and sharks. But if I look deeply enough, I see clearly that this is indicative of pride swelling its ugliness inside my soul. Always, when I seek affirmation and validation from the world, I end up disappointed.
Detachment also requires self-surrender, turning away from self and towards God, abandoning ourselves into His providential care. It seems the first step of detachment is abandonment. There must be a transfer of attaching oneself to the world or worldly goods to a total, childlike surrender into God’s arms. The detachment of one can more naturally lead to a total dependence on God.
And that is the beginning of how we learn more about His will for our lives: Once I let go of controlling everything in my life or tailoring it to what the world deems as successful, my heart no longer seeks anything apart from what God wants for me. I am free, I am empty of self, so that God then fills me with Himself. When God is free to dwell in me, His desires and mine are one and the same.
The burning in your soul is the effect of repeated disappointments in life haunting you.
“Everything that you experience is linked to the love of God who loves you and to his desire for your good. He is present in your life no matter what you do.” – Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
I struggle with a pervasive lack of trust in God. It’s not that I am cognitively unaware of His goodness and generosity. It’s just that I have always held an unbelief that He will always come through for me in particular. I’ve seen Him work in amazing ways in other people’s lives, but in my own, I have this murky view of how things may or may not work out.
It comes back to the attachment problem. Whenever I am pursuing my own agenda, I end up disappointed. And then I petulantly end up blaming God for letting me down when, in reality, it was my own childish and selfish ways that led me to failure.
But even perceived failures and misfortunes can be for our benefit. Several saints have said that God uses everything for our good, even our sins and struggles. Why, then, would I remain despondent when things go wrong, as they inevitably will? It’s because I am still hanging on to some remnant of pride inside my heart. There’s something I cannot or will not relinquish into His care.
When I finally let go of the barriers surrounding my soul, humility warms me, and I turn to God with authentic gratitude for my concupiscence. My miserable condition can be turned into a gift that I hand over to God in an act of trust. That’s why I think growing in humility necessarily crumbles disappointment and discouragement, and it then leads me to a greater, more heroic confidence that God is working in every detail and moment of my life.
“Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6:9
When I am disappointed, I am tempted to give up whatever it is I have been working on. Sometimes this is disciplining my girls. Other times it’s a manuscript for a new book. Even still it’s a difficult friendship. Disappointment follows missteps and mishaps. Every bump in the road of my life has the potential to lead me closer to God or further away from Him, but I cannot remain stagnant. Nothing in my spiritual development ever remains status quo.
God reminds us that we will harvest the fruit of our labors when we persevere through difficulties. Again, this requires trusting Him. I’ve found that the greatest and most rewarding aspects of my life happen after a particularly trying period of mental challenges, physical labors, and spiritual attack. Perseverance takes an immense amount of hope, but hope never disappoints, because God does not disappoint. He is always faithful.
The sting of earth when buried in the cloak of humility is dead.
“Nothing is difficult for the humble.” – St. Faustina
We obtain victory through humility – victory over sin, victory over the flesh and the world and the devil. Humility is the basis of holiness; nothing hurts us when we are humble. I remember reading these words from St. Faustina long ago. I am, by nature, a very sensitive soul, and I have always gotten my feelings hurt easily. Almost every criticism or disagreement when I was a child left me with a bitter sting in my heart, and I ended up retrieving into a safe and comfortable emotional hiding place where I didn’t share much and blended in with my peers.
The few times in my life when I’ve been challenged unfairly and remained calm or had my writing torn to shreds with brutal interpretations and truly did not care I attribute to the grace of humility. Because I am not naturally humble, I know God has granted me the ability to maintain a sense of confidence, peace, and gratitude during the times of particularly intense trials. In that sense, I have come to understand that, for one who is humble, nothing bothers him or her. Nothing disturbs his or her peace.
“Love makes all things easy.” – Blessed Henry Suso
Humility and charity are virtuous siblings, it seems. One nearly always leads to growth in the other. If nothing disturbs a humble soul, then love makes every difficulty easy. The “sting of the earth” no longer exists when I grow in humility. Even the most base and trite moments of my life can be transformed into something beautiful when I do them out of love for God.
Humility and love vanquish every complex struggle I face: every disappointment, failure, mistake, and sin. I only need to ask God in all sincerity that He grant me these virtues. And when I subsequently encounter the tempests that try my patience and generosity, I need to recognize that He is presenting me with opportunities to become a meek and humble soul, mirroring my heart to His.
How do you pray to the Lord for humility and detachment? Leave a comment!