Spiritual Vertigo in the Missional Journey: the balance of solitude and community

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A paved path is inviting. It beckons, whispering of mysteries that lay beyond the horizon. Inspiring dreams and hopes of breathtaking beauty, the path lures the hiker with promises of discovery. So, off we go. Walking in the warmth of our inspiration. The hike suggests possible side excursions and we make note of them for possible future exploration. For now, however, we simply want to summit the top of this particular hill.

We reach it. We gasp, realizing we have stopped breathing for a moment. We look down. In one direction is a precipitous vertigo-inducing ravine. In the other, the ice field blocks our path.

Such is an apt metaphor for my missional journey. It’s not simple, this business of doing life with people. Faced with my own hypocritical observations of other people’s shortcomings and a persistent lack of courage to address my own, I find myself teetering on the brink of missional hope and self-defeating despair. On one hand, I write and say many of the right things, and even occasionally do them, but on the other hand my introversion can only take so much of this people business.

It’s draining, tiring. To love and be loved. To trust and be trusted. To become vulnerable when that vulnerability invites painful retribution (both well-intended and not) from others. Writers on disciplined Christian spirituality laud quietness, solitude, listening, and the sacrifices which attend such a posture.

Those are not my struggle, to be candid. For me, and perhaps others like me, the challenge of spiritual discipline is community, confession, relational vulnerability and attendant honorable intimacy.

Even the most austere monasteries which focus on vows of silence emphasize community.

The missional conversation focuses much attention on doing life with people, both fellow believers and those who are not. Yet it seems to give priority to spiritual disciplines which prefer solitude, rather than community.

I suggest that both are necessary. But let’s not simply talk a good game. Let’s do it. Solitude has long been my companion and will continue to have its place, but I need community in order to become Christ-like.

How about you?

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2 responses to “Spiritual Vertigo in the Missional Journey: the balance of solitude and community

  1. I hear so much of this resonating with my life. For so many years I too have heard leaders speak of spiritual disciplines which happen alone, developing the right heart, and memorising the right words. Yet, even a few of those I’m close to struggle to invite me to their gatherings because however much you meditate on scripture, it will not give you the social experience that you need to connect to those around you. And, with those great prayer warriors of faith put aside, it’s in the lives of the community that offers the greatest potential to serve.

  2. Kate, thanks so much for your thoughts. It’s good know my writing is resonating with others and that I’m not alone in my struggle to find community in my faith journey. Be blessed by our Lord as you follow him!

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