A Letter To My Teen Self: Solitude
‘To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude’
– Henri Nouwen
To young me,
I was a little worried about writing to you as I am not sure how you would take this. You never really understood what was going on inside your heart and mind. You were walking aimlessly searching for something but you didn’t know what you were looking for. You met Christ at a young age but you never really let Him right in. You never let Him into the deep parts of your heart because you didn’t really know where that was. You only ever met Him at the door of your heart. A passion was growing inside of you for your Lord but you didn’t know where or how to pursue that passion.
As I reminisce at your younger years and read all your teachers reports, they all seem to read the same. ‘Veronia is very sociable and popular among her classmates.’ Really? Was that really you? It sure didn’t feel like that when you would come home to an empty space within yourself. You were alone. The echo of your loneliness deafened your ears to your pain.
You read your Bible, prayed and did all your Sunday school homework. You were able to answer questions about God and stories in the Bible but did you really know Who your Maker was? You were quiet, spent a lot of time thinking but what were you thinking about? You kept avoiding your wounds and suppressed hurts. You walked about with a godly mask saying ‘It’s not okay to not be okay because I have God. A Christian can’t be sad or angry or feel any hurt.’ You tried everything you could to avoid confronting your loneliness because it was painful. You equated being quiet with being lonely, everyone was a stranger to you. Your heart longed for something or someone but you didn’t know what or who. Through your high school years, you became independent, you didn’t need anyone. Speaking about your thoughts and feelings became such an alien thing to you. This illusion you had, that not sharing or speaking about how you feel was normal and wasn’t really necessary, is what brought you more harm than healing.
I remember that time when you were 11 years old and your first best friend of 6 years, walked away from you. The one person you invested so much time in, the one who you did everything with, betrayed your trust. You do know that that had a huge impact on you. You tried so hard to ignore how you felt and as a result, hurt resided inside of you. The pain that you never felt is what lured you into your cave of isolation. From that time onwards, you began a journey seeking to find community and belonging. Your Lord was growing a consuming passion within the depth of your heart. He used this experience to call you to the throne of Grace to cry out in the time of need. I wish you had laid your loneliness at His feet to realize the work of Grace that He was bestowing in your life from when you were 15. He was calling you to partake of Who He is so you can be what He is.
Let me tell you something a little crazy. What if I told you that the desert, the place of emptiness, the place of loneliness, that place you made your dwelling place for many years, is the place where your Best Friend is waiting for you. He’s waiting to turn that desert place into a garden. A garden of fruit, a garden of peace and holiness. A garden of real community and fellowship. Turn to the One who you claim to sit with daily, you know why? Because He Himself is the One who dwells in community. Love cannot be love if He is alone. Enter into the Divine Eternal Dance and join the Triune God. He is whom you seek and deeply desire. Your soul is thirsty for union with it’s Lover. Please don’t believe the lie that you are incapable of loving others just because you are in isolation. Within you is the kingdom of heaven! You have the capacity to more than just love! It wasn’t out of your Heavenly Father’s loneliness that He created you for Himself but out of His Love. He who is Love is the One who dwells in community with the Son and the Spirit. Leave this emptiness to come to fullness, leave this isolation to come to abundance of Life.
O daughter of Jerusalem, turn your loneliness into solitude and you will dwell and dine together with the Holy Trinity. You will be seated at the royal table and partake of His Divinity while you feast and commune with the body of Christ, His Church and His bride. Once you enter into solitude you will experience a creative communion with your fellow beings. You must be willing to enter in order to be healed and become who you were meant to be.
“A union with Christ divinizes us while leaving our personality totally intact. It does not entail by any means the absorption of one’s personality but the full flowering of one’s own unique God-given personality by God’s grace.”