In the late 1980s, I discovered the writings of the late Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was a Roman Catholic priest, university professor, and psychologist. After having taught at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale, he went on to work with mentally handicapped adults in Ontario.
He was a prolific writer. I remember reading books such as The Way of the Heart, The Wounded Healer, and In the Name of Jesus. As I read Nouwen, I was deeply moved. There was something about his writings that fed me at the time. I found myself going back again and again to certain paragraphs in his books. After reading these three books, I then read most of what he had published at that time.
The following is an excerpt from his book Making All Things New.
To bring some solitude into our lives is one of the most necessary but also most difficult disciplines. Even though we may have a deep desire for real solitude, we also experience a certain apprehension as we approach that solitary place and time. As soon as we are alone, without people to talk with, books to read, TV to watch, or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens up in us.
This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force.
We often used these outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone. The confrontation with our inner conflicts can be too painful for us to endure.
This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important. Solitude is not a spontaneous response to an occupied and preoccupied life. There are too many reasons not to be alone. Therefore we must begin by carefully planning some solitude.
(Cited in Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, pp. 95-96.)