There’s another chapter to the story I told in Silent Solitude – Part 1 and Silent Solitude – Part 2. After hosting a few A High Mountain retreats (if you recall, personal retreats with a small company of men) at our home in Montana, I began wondering a few things. What aspects could I bring back home to Michigan, to make them more accessible to men interested in pursuing solitude? Should I be offering more to equip men to practice solitude disciplines in their daily lives? And having learned that solitude and community are inseparable and complimentary spiritual disciplines, what could I offer to give men a taste of this – to experience this for themselves?
I sat with these questions for a long time, occasionally in solitude with the Trinity, asking and listening. Why are these questions on my heart? Is there something you want me to do with them? I wrote ideas, and developed an outline as I began to get more clarity. I shared these with important people in my life who could help me discern what to do about what was bubbling to the surface. Once again, solitude was the crucible for this process.
Photo by Nicholas Kampouris on Unsplash
Eventually, I felt compelled to move. I made a deal with God (uh oh). There were two things holding me back. The first was my continuing battle with the evil spirit of diminishment and my fleshly weakness, which whispered: “You’re not qualified. You’re not doing well enough at solitude practices to have the right to offer them to others.” So I told God that I would surrender those thoughts to him and his will, and I brought them into His light by sharing them with other men who know me well. Secondly, I asked God to send me someone to do this work together. I didn’t want to do it alone; in fact, I didn’t think it was wise to do it alone.
Honestly I don’t know whether it was stubbornness or faith, but I decided that I would not ask people to join me. Instead I asked God to send me someone, and I would wait until they showed up. We know God has a sense of humor. I think he laughed at that and accepted the challenge, like a father lovingly chuckling at a son’s silly request. And within a month, one of the men from the True Pursuit team reached out to me and expressed a desire he had to dig into solitude practices with me.
A few months later, Patrick and I sent out invitations to a dozen men to join us for what we called “@ Home”. Here’s how we described it.
“As a small group of men, we will begin a journey into the disciplines of solitude. And by doing this together, we will experience the link between solitude and community. Our journey will include twelve Gatherings over a two-year period and Training in between the Gatherings.
Gatherings: We will gather around a table, share food and drink, and discuss meditations on the topic of solitude, and the related topics of community and mission. And of course, we will have time to enjoy each other’s company and develop true friendships.
Training: In between Gatherings, there will be “field exercises” designed to help us individually practice the disciplines of solitude. Upon returning to the table, we’ll share what we’ve noticed and learned, how we’ve struggled, and the beautiful stories of God joining us in solitude.”
As I write this, we are preparing for our final gathering of the first @ Home group. The description we offered to men in that invitation has come to life! It has not been perfect, the men struggled in places and we lost some along the way, and I’m sure there are some ways we could have led them better. And it has been amazingly deep relationally, and personally transformative for each man.
Photo by Francois Pistorius on Unsplash
Before I close this, I want to point out a few principles that are embedded in the description of @ Home. The first I mentioned earlier: solitude and community are inseparable – you should not practice one without the other. The second principle is something the True Pursuit team calls “The Power of the Table” – the practice of gathering for a lengthy meal that is intentionally focused on kingdom life, and enjoyable. The third is that disciplines are mostly developed through practice, and that practice is easier if you have “teammates”. In the end, Patrick and I taught a little bit, but mostly what we did was offer the “space” for men to gather together, then practice, then gather back together. In fact, that is the rhythm of solitude and community.
As I pondered writing about this chapter in my story, I asked myself why. Why tell this story – it seems to be mostly about me? What fruit is there in that? I think the point is to illustrate this: You can do this too!
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
You can gather a group of men and/or women, and agree to journey together in exploring the solitude disciplines. You don’t need to be an expert and you don’t need to be the teacher. There are resources you can follow (we can help you find them, if need be). You can do it your own way – my story is just an example. You will need step into the vulnerable space of not knowing where you’re going and trust that God will show up. Does that stir something deep in your heart? Ask God what that’s all about – I dare you.