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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Community

'We depend on others for the kind of wisdom that exceeds mere answers'

Solitude, a sometimes romanticized and often exaggerated element of the contemplative life, has its own struggles, of course. But, the desert monastics imply, when we choose solitude as the kiln for our souls, the temptation can be to gauge spiritual development by a lesser standard than the gospel describes.

 When a person lives alone, the ancients knew, it can be very beguiling to confuse practice with holiness. If the measuring stick of spirituality is simply rigid physical asceticism and fidelity to the rules, the fasts, the routines, then spiritual ripening is simply a matter of some kind of spiritual arithmetic. We count up what we've done, what we've "given up," what we've avoided and count ourselves holy. The problem, these great masters of the spiritual life knew, is that such a measure is a partial one. To claim full human development, total spiritual maturity, outside the realm of the human community is to claim the impossible.

The real contemplative does not have to withdraw from life to find God.


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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

Reinventing Sunday school

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