My colleague Dave Zimmerman, who shares an office wall with me, just wrote a new book Deliver Us from Me-Ville about escaping self-absorption. (I find it amusing and ironic that the inescapable subject category on the back by the bar code happens to be "Personal Growth.") One part of the book contrasts the traditional Christian emphasis on "quiet time" (personal devotional time with God) with what Dave calls "loud time," which he highlights as "the devotional value of time spent throughout the day in the company of others."
This line jumped out at me: "By privileging solitude - 'quiet time' - over fellowship as a means of identifying God at work, we privilege our own instincts over the instincts of others."
In other words, one of the dangers of personal quiet time is that it's inherently individualistic. Left to our own devices, we risk running astray and subjectively misconstruing our relationship with God in terms that merely benefit our own preconceived ideas. We need community to temper our individualism, to provide a corrective to isolation and self-absorption. Of course, there is a place for both solitude and community. Dave highlights Bonhoeffer's famous quotes on this: "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone."
I suspect that personality differences also play a role in this. I remember when Dave started his Loud Time blog, and I thought it was a cool name and idea, as an alternative to evangelical quiet time. He said something about how Christian spirituality tends to prioritize the contemplative introvert who encounters God in solitude and silence, leaving extroverts at a loss as to how to connect with God in ways that fit them.
So I was interested to see Nancy Reeves's new book Spirituality for Extroverts (And Tips for Those Who Love Them). Reeves says that some of us are Tiggers, and some of us are Owls. Owls are comfortable with silent prayer retreats, while Tiggers might feel unspiritual because they don't connect with God as well that way. Some of us are contemplatives, others of us are activists. We need each other to temper our own tendencies and to keep us in balance.
I've greatly appreciated the literature of the spiritual formation movement (especially of my author David Benner, as well as other books in our Formatio line). But I confess that it does not come naturally to me. I've never had anything remotely approaching a consistent (or even occasional!) daily "quiet time." But I've been glad that even contemplatives understand that spiritual life is sometimes activist and sometimes communal, not just private and personal. There's a place for both quiet time and loud time.