Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life

I made a discovery while reading Nouwen’s book “Reaching Out”. My loneliness is masked by the constancy of human interaction of four young children and an influx of neighbors and friends. I find myself with the knowledge that no one has bothered to ask for weeks if I am soul satisfied. My “outward-reaching cravings” (RO, 13) and my “illusion that the final solution …is to be found in human togetherness” (RO,12) are both a part of my natural tendency towards extroversion. I agree that it is “impossible to move from loneliness to solitude without any form of withdrawal from a distracting world” (RO, 16). This is where I discipline myself to “stay alone and take the risk of entering into [my] own experience” (RO, 14). In this place I can weep over lost opportunities to be more present with my children, smile at a joke my husband shared with me, ponder the ending marriage of a close friend. From this solitary place I move back, full circle, more freely into the moments of relationships with a greater capacity for communion, honesty, clarity, love, grace and peace.

I have experienced so much freedom in seeing that even when I separate myself from people, nothing implodes! Our habits can be such powerful and relentless teachers. There more I served and led and organized, the more rewarded I was for productivity and creating great relationships. What could be wrong with that, my habits would ask me? And now my habits (disciplines) are teaching me new ways to be with people and be alone with my own very precious Father who loves to spend time with me.

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