Sharing Solitude in Community - Brandon Bradley
In my last article, we explored Henri Nouwen’s idea of a wagon wheel as a simple model of the balance of solitude and ministry. The hub of the wheel demonstrates how solitude with Jesus is the starting place for everything else in our lives. This is where we rest and breathe and experience Jesus intimately. Solitude is where we open our lives up to the Spirit and allow Him to guide us. We limit ourselves if we do not move beyond ourselves into relationships with other people.
If a wagon wheel only consists of a hub, then it cannot benefit the wagon at all. By itself, the hub cannot get the wagon off the ground. When spokes connect the hub to the outer wheel, and the wheel works in concert with the other three wheels, forward movement can take place. This is the power of working together in unity.
The spokes of the wheel represent our relationships with other people. This might be the person you run into at the gym on a regular basis or the neighbor you talk to on occasion. It might even be the person you wind up next to in an airplane, an elevator, or a hospital waiting room. While we tend to focus on the deepest relationships in our lives, these surface connections are still relationships, the spokes of our lives. We need to remember that God can use any of these.
In my own life, God most often uses my close friendships, family, and the church to speak into my life and where He provides me opportunities to speak into someone else. Please note that I use the phrases, “to speak into someone else” or “to speak Jesus into someone’s life” with great caution. I honestly have nothing worth sharing except for what Jesus has spoken to me. This is why solitude must come first. Without solitude, without a time of meditating over Scripture and contemplating its meaning, without a time of deep, listening prayer, before confessing my own heart to God and hearing Him affirm my belovedness ---- without all of this, I have nothing of eternal value to share with another person. When we hear Jesus speak to us through solitude and through the Word, it is a neverending rush of living water that bubbles up inside of us. And THIS is the place from which we can relate to one another.
True community is joining Jesus in the community and working of the Trinity. When we begin from a place of solitude and join with others out of their solitude, the presence of Jesus is almost palpable. His Spirit communicating through each of us becomes the glue that makes unity truly possible.
Without allowing the Spirit to work, I can be hurtful, indifferent, unmerciful, and judgmental. Instead of seeing Christ in my brothers and sisters, I see their flaws and their struggles. These are the times I have failed to take the log out of my own eye before reaching for the speck of dust in their eye. The truth is, that might not even be their speck of dust. It might be a splinter that came off the log. The issue is really a problem that I am struggling with, but I prefer to pin it on somebody else.
Consider for a moment what a corporate gathering would be like if everyone in the room had experienced an intimate time with God before they gathered. What if each person spent time in solitude listening to God’s voice affirm their identity as his child? If each of us received God’s affirmation of our identity, our neurotic feelings of what we fear other people may think of us are no longer a distraction. Our doubts as to whether our thoughts are worth sharing get pushed to the side because we know we have something real, intimate, and powerful to share out of a relationship with Jesus. Rather than struggling with our worth, we are longing for the right time in the lesson or the discussion to share what Jesus has shared with us.
Perhaps your solitude with Jesus was a time of deep anguish and sadness in which Jesus held your heart in His hands, making it possible for you to move forward in the midst of a difficult situation. You can share your burden with the right companion.
In our times of solitude, we can give our burdens to Jesus in exchange for a yoke that is easy and light, and is custom-made for us, although it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes we desperately need others to help us carry our load. When we are guided by the Holy Spirit and Jesus has already lifted some of that burden during our time of solitude, we are able to share appropriately rather than over-sharing (something which I have been known to do on occasion). When each of us has spent time in solitude with Jesus, we are able to help each other by carrying those burdens the rest of the way. The journey is traveled by reflecting the encouragement, compassion, mercy, and love we have each received from the Father.
By Brandon Bradley, September 12, 2020
Brandon Bradley serves as the Dean of Professional Studies at Central Christian College of the Bible. Brandon has an M.Div. and an M.A. Ministry Leadership from Hope International University, and a B.S. in Preaching Ministry from Central Christian College of the Bible. He is currently doing his doctoral studies on spiritual formation at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
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