Summer of Solitude


I guess the last thing I have to say after writing my epilogue post is that I'm answering a call this summer into a season of intentional solitude. I'll be spending the next two and a half months with a lot of solitude and silence during the long hours Kirk spends at work. The time will be spent in prayer, worship, study, and reflection. There will be a lot of words written privately between me and God. I will not be posting anything here.

This pull toward a summer of solitude started to emerge right about the time I fell silent here in mid-March, too. Shortly after Kirk got his new job, I started putting together a new writing notebook full of notes, articles, quotes, poems, journal entries, and other scribblings I'd been amassing for about six months on the subject of peacemaking and nonviolence. This was a subject I'd begun to care deeply about exploring during the fall semester at Spring Arbor, when I'd read a book called The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser.

In this book, I encountered an idea that simply would not let me go. It was the idea that love is the only force powerful enough to overcome violence. Now, I've not spent much time in my life thinking about violence or the works of peace. It surprised me just as much as anybody else that I was feeling a pull to explore this subject deeper . . . much deeper, in fact. But there it was. It would not let me go.

In January, when I studied for my residency in Philadelphia, I encountered more ideas that kept stirring something within me. The books I was reading for the residency kept quoting the same people over and over again: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa. Everything they had to say resonated with a place rooted very deep inside of me. So before I left for Philadelphia, I made a commitment to spend this year studying the works of the great peacemakers of history. I knew I had to learn more about this subject that had its grip on me, and I thought the best place to begin would be to apprentice myself to the masters who had lived it out.

On the plane ride to Philadelphia, I happened to be reading the Jan/Feb issue of Relevant magazine and stumbled upon an article about the femocide taking place right this very moment in the Congo. This article was not for the faint of heart, and I cried deep wracking sobs while reading it on the plane. There was so much deeply disturbing news embedded in that article, and I found myself wondering if Rolheiser was really serious. What could it possibly look like to overcome violence with love in the Congo femocide? Was it really possible to overcome that level of hatred? Where would one even begin?

Then I spent my time at the residency thinking more and more about this subject. Over and over in my journal for that week, I wrote in big block letters these sorts of notes to myself: Cooperation accords human dignity. The primary principle of social justice is the dignity of all human persons. How is the heart changed? How do we help people grow in love? If Jesus is real, then God is for all people.

You might remember that I came home from the residency asking the question, "What is my Calcutta?" I was thinking about something I was beginning to call emotional justice, since my focus for many years has been the journey to emotional and spiritual healing in my own heart and in the hearts of others. But as I continued to think about emotional justice on a personal level, I also began to wonder if the kind of love that I have learned is the key to healing individual hearts is perhaps the same kind of love that has the power to heal the greater magnitude of ills in our big world. It might sound pie in the sky to say so, but it was the best connection I could make between the journey I've taken so far and this new subject that had gripped my heart, showing up quite unpresumingly one day upon the doorstep of my heart and asking me to follow where it leads.

I've been following the path in small increments this first six months of the year. But then, as I assembled all my notes and clippings and other scribblings into my dedicated notebook for this project toward the end of March, I started to notice something new. I noticed a pull toward dedicated time. I looked ahead to the summer and saw that time might indeed present itself in large doses while Kirk is away at work. Most of my usual commitments would not be in place in the summer, and my heart was growing in its need to pray intently and learn intently and think intently and journal intently about all of this. I began to wonder if this summer was indeed the time.

Over the last couple months, as I've been away from here, it has become clear to me that this summer really is meant for this. So today I am beginning. I don't know where this path will ultimately lead . . . and I'm completely okay with that. It has been such a joy-filled delight to watch myself embrace the mystery, trusting God with the outcome, contenting myself with mere obedience inside the process, not having to know what this is all for right now, just knowing I'm supposed to follow.

I won't be writing here this summer. I'm even going into this journey believing this could be my last post ever written on this blog. I just want to be open to wherever God will take me, no strings attached. For now, I'll leave this content open and accessible, until it becomes clear that the time to close it down completely has arrived.

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the Irish blessing I've included at the beginning of this post. I found it many months ago and knew that it would be my wish for all of you if and when I ever did leave this space. Be blessed, my friends, and take care.

Much love,