This was first published on April 26th of 2011. I smile to know I was tuning my ears to hear God's challenges for these disciplines. The challenge for silence and solitude is as great today as ever before!
I am always amazed with how God takes a heart, and through the Spirit guides us to learning more of one aspect of Him at a given time. My heart has been especially open to considering quiet and stillness lately.
I have discovered a book that I have actually had sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I have no doubt that reading it now is perfectly timed for the lessons I have gained from it :) I am reading the classic "Celebration of Discipline" by Robert Foster. I have found some wonderfully inspiring encouragements in those timeless lessons.
I have been challenged by all the disciplines: meditation, prayer, study, submission, service and fasting (so far)..but one of them has really stood out to me. The Discipline of Solitude.
He speaks of our fear of silence, our fear of being alone. He speaks of how we have replaced quiet solitude with noise, filling our ears and thus our minds and hearts with other than godly things. He contrasts solitude versus loneliness, "Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment."
He stresses the importance of quiet to the spirit of solitude..."without silence there is no solitude."
He clarifies that it is not just the absence of noise or speaking, but a state "listening to God." He says, "Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening. Simply to refrain from talking, without the heart of listening to God, is not silence."
He challenges me when he asserts that using words or noise for the sake of filling silence can take us away from listening to God, or being in a state that allows us to hear Him. I am totally guilty of that!
I didnt realize how much so I was guilty of it until feeling challenged in this area - I started realizing how often I dispel quiet moments with music, talking or with allowing my mind to wonder. More specifically, how I dont take advantage of the moments in my day where I can take hold of silence, if even for a moment.
I found that when I did have a moment or two (which happened more often than I realized!) where the noise is dispelled for a blessed moment (naptime, or when the kids are outside and occupied) I look to turn on music, reach for my phone or jump on the computer. I didnt really realize how often I am guilty of this, and have since realized how many little moments in my day that have potential for quiet, silence and solitude.
It may be literally 2 minutes, but it DOES happen ...who knew?
He especially challenges me when he talks about when we use words to dispel quiet. He goes so far as to reference Ecclesiastes 5:1, "To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools."
Hm. How often have I given a "sacrifice of fools" when I try to get my words out and heard? Uh, ouch. He continues the assault on my pride when he states "one reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust." Ouch again.
Yesterday, I really tried to embrace this idea. I resisted filling up my quiet moments with noise, and found I had more moments that I thought possible to meditate, pray and consider things of God. I prayed more for family and friends, I thought more of things that were "pure and lovely."
Honestly, that was way easier for me that will be the next opportunity I have to chose between keeping my trap shut and sharing my vast wisdom with someone. But, he challenges through Thomas a Kempis, "it is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation." Sheesh, my toes hurt. :)
I am going to keep working on this - truly the moments of quiet and listening were well worth the "sacrifice" of noise.
What do you find more difficult...embracing quiet or being quiet? ..being okay with less noise, or keeping your tongue stilled?