Dying to affirmation

Nouwen’s description of our relationship with solitude is just that, a relationship that requires the same death to our false self that is required of marriage or raising children or caring for an aging parent. The tension arises in all of these relationships because we are, as Nouwen describes, deprived of something we want immediately. In parenting, I want my children to behave and achieve certain goals. When they are difficult I become angry at them for not behaving and myself for not being a better parent. I want to love them in a way that says “No matter how you behave I will love you the same”, but my actions communicate “ If you behave exactly like I expect from you and everyone around us thinks you are great, then I will love you better”. In solitude, the tension comes when we want to love God’s quiet and undemanding presence as much as we love the noisy affirmation of our peers and accomplishments, but our habits have taught us otherwise. To navigate these competing desires, we need a mature love, a mature practice of being away from the easy affirmations of our peers and culture.