As we go through life and journey with the Lord, our lives should begin to increasingly transform so that we look more like the Lord than we did when we first started walking with Him. He uses many tools to help bring about that transformation, some of them are needed because we do not yield to His whispers or we continue in the busyness of this life repeating persistent habits. Some are needed because we fail to see who we are or could be.
Solitude is one of the avenues that can help us face ourselves.
“Solitude is the furnace of transformation…(it) is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.” Henri Nouwen
It can be easier to continue with the false self than we would like to admit. Our desires to please and receive the approval of others lead us to put on the garments we believe will succeed to that end, to use all manner of adornment in order to hide the flaws still present in our character. We can be so effective doing it over time that we can be deceived into believing those things are who we truly are.
In the recesses of our mind and heart that part of us that knows the truth of our disguise, cringe in shame to even consider spending time in solitude with the Lord. We know those trappings do not fool Him.
We get into deeper trouble because we try to do more and more to distract ourselves from discovering the truth. That adds to our dilemma because we lose all sense of who we are if we are not doing. We can stay stuck in doing for many reasons including how often our brothers and sisters nudge us to stay involved and perhaps do even more.
To risk abandoning this routine means we must be willing to believe we can be safe in the Lord’s presence. We have believed for so long that humankind will reject or shame us for our failures that we can project that view onto the Lord as well. I love how Ruth Haley Barton defines this:
“This willingness to see ourselves as we are and to name it in God’s presence is at the very heart of the spiritual journey. But it takes time; time to feel safe enough with ourselves and with God, to risk exposing the tender, unfinished places of the soul. We are so accustomed to being shamed or condemned in the unfinished parts of ourselves that it is hard to believe there is a place where all of who we are – the good, the bad and the ugly – will be handled with love and gentleness. Solitude is just such a place, but it takes time to learn to trust it.”
Our challenge is to lay aside the experience we may have had with a friend, family member, or ministry leader that we entrusted with those “unfinished places” who responded in ways that wounded us even either through ignorance or self-righteousness. Such experiences tended to result in retreating deeper into the shadows or driving ourselves even harder.
It can be easy for us to believe this sort of journey is unique to us, but if we take time to consider what we see in God’s Word we discover many examples of others (heroes of the faith) who have made similar journeys. We see it in David as well as in Paul (to name just two.)
At the very least we need to remember that God is good (as the beavers told Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe of the Narnia stories) even if we cannot see Him as safe.
Consider the words of Robert Mulholland in Invitation to a Journey:
“The process of being conformed to the image of Christ takes place primarily at the point of our unlikeness of Christ’s image. God is present to us in the most destructive aspects of our cultural captivity. God is involved with us in the most imprisoning bondage of our brokenness. God meets us in those places of our lives that are most alienated from God.”
21 thoughts on “Journey Toward Transformation”
Wow, Pam, I really needed to read this today. I know that I need more times of solitude and yet I often fight it. But when I do take the time to be quiet and rest in the Lord’s presence I am always blessed. He accepts me just as I am, like you said “the good, the bad and the ugly” and He meets me there and I begin to be transformed. Beautiful post, Pam.
Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at the #LMMLinkup!
Thanks, Gayl! Your affirmation and reflection on what I posted blesses me! 💕
Thank you for the inspiring words, it’s always great to read your posts, I’m so glad you could join The Really Crafty Link Party.
Thanks so much Teresa!
Ouch. This is true but difficult to live out at times: “The process of being conformed to the image of Christ takes place primarily at the point of our unlikeness of Christ’s image.” Thanks for this food for thought, Pam!
Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking and helpful post, Pam. Our walk with God can be complicated, and it’s good to know that God is with us always. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.
Thanks so much for sharing this, April! I love linking with you😊
I get startling reminders from time to time that God is not “like a tame lion,” even though He’s safe, and just this Sunday was reminding folks that His goodness makes it easier for us to trust His power. And then reading that quote about God meeting us in the most unlikely of places reminds me that He is completely free to do as He sees fit. Thanks for sharing your journey through these truths.
What a great reflection, my friend. That is sound discernment. Blessings on your day today💕
What you said, “We must believe we can be safe in the Lord’s presence” grabbed my heart and made me stop and think…I need to be honest with myself about this, thank you!
Hi Michelle! I am so glad you stopped by. Maybe that was an invitation from Jesus to come closer and know more about how good He is and how much He loves you.💕
Very thought provoking! Your insight is so helpful as many of us struggle with loving ourselves as Christ sees us. I find the more time I spend in solitude with Him, the more at peace I become, with myself and life in general.
Thanks so much, Gretchen. I think you’re right! That has been my experience in terms of struggle as well as where the struggle can let go and experience safety and acceptance in the loving arms of the One who has been waiting for us to discover He is there. Have a blessed day with Him!💕
It sounds as if this Barton’s book is really touching you deeply, Pam. Are you participating in Linda Stoll’s group effort to read this book? I have been trying and am a bit behind, but want to gain a greater appreciation for where Barton has walked. Thanks so much for inspiring us to spend time alone in solitude with God!
Barton’s book has stirred a number of things that are not new to me, but said them in ways that have impacted me on a topic that is not often discussed or taught. I am participating as I can in Linda’s group, but finished the book already. I had read Dallas Willard’s book on The Spiritual Disciplines some time ago and his forward gave her point with me before I read the book. I think we all want to spend time in solitude with Him, but everything in our lives (and even ministry lives) are stacked against that happening with any consistency. When that happens with me, I know I am the poorer for it and poorer at loving others well as a result. Thanks for taking a moment to respond, Beth.💕
I’m so grateful to be walking this silence and solitude road together … such warm, safe company, such uplifting conversation, deep considerations that cause us to turn wholeheartedly to Christ.
Thank you, Pam, for speaking into my life on so many occasions. You’ve blessed me greatly in recent days here and there.
I thank God on every remembrance of you and bless Him for your wisdom and sensitivity.
Good Monday, dear friend, happy to be journeying with you. Thanks as well for introducing me to Ruth Haley Barton. Take care and hugs to you!💕
A beautifully written essay with powerful content! Thank you for sharing. Spending time with God in solitude is a spiritual discipline I need to be reminded of, amid the distractions of a Monday morning. Wonderful post.
Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement! I pray the Lord will keep you centered on His plans for you today!💕
Look forward to your next piece!