After a pretty emotional set of days (both self- and 0thers-inflicted), I needed to take a break. So no post yesterday. Today I returned because I read about our greatest enemy. The enemy of marriage, mental & emotional health, financial responsibility and the God-defined soul within each of us.

Compulsion.

We're constantly surrounded by things that we have to own, have to be, have to attain or ascribe to in order to be fully alive. If you are tired of infomercials, the best way to battle it is to beat compulsion.

Cut off the blood flow. Stop feeding it.

It isn't that easy, however. As a pastor and spiritual director, I realize that so much of the "inner arsenal" (thank you Alan Jones) we have inside of us is so deeply wound around the core of our being that to simply "stop" is impossible.

This does not work in our formation into Christlikeness. 

We have to root it out at the source, train it out by our trust in Christ - meaning don't simply believe He died for your sins, but believe He was right about everything. Trusting the way of Jesus, both active (doing the soul work of spiritual disciplines) and passive (allowing the Spirit of God to speak deeply into us and heal our deeper wounds) at the same time brings us out of compulsion.

So how do we kill this enemy? The enemy that lurks in internet sidebars, checkout "impulse buy" racks, and in our own compulsion for cultural success melts in the light of one key practice.

Solitude.

For that, I close with a quote from Richard Foster's book Prayer that gets to the heart of this discipline:

...we find that solitude gives us power not to win the rat race but to ignore the rat race altogether. Slowly, we find ourselves letting go of our inner compulsions to acquire more wealth than we need, look more youthful than we are, attain more status than is wise. In the stillness, our false, busy selves are unmasked and seen for the impostors they truly are. (63)

The more frequently we enter solitude, which as Foster says begins when we "disregard what others think of us" (63) in the sense of living our lives ultimately to live up to someone else's standard rather than the soul-quickening direction of God's Spirit, the less life-blood will flow to compulsion.

We will have time to think.

We will learn to be content.

We will stop fruitless pursuits and live in the grace of God in ordinary days.

We will move slowly enough to breathe in God and exhale Gospel.

And that is a battle worth fighting.

*For more information on what to do with solitude, Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipline and Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart are great resources.

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