Along with the problems that this pandemic has brought there are also some great gifts hidden in the hurt, if we will stop panicking long enough to not only see them but embrace them. Two of those blessing that this Pandemic has created space for are the spiritual disciplines we rarely seem to make time for in our usually hectic lifestyles, Silence and Solitude. Silence and solitude are intentional, concrete ways of opening ourselves up to the presence of God and His work of transforming us. Where solitude is allowing the Lord to run his fingers over our lives revealing those points of unlikeness to the image of Christ, silence is focused listening to God. It completes and intensifies solitude. It is a process of coming to stillness, not just simply the absence of noise. Peter Scazzero sums it up well in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality when he says, “Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to attend to God. Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God.” Have you taken enough time for stillness? Have you sat long enough to know our God? As a society we are uncomfortable with silence. Even in our churches, the place you would expect to find silence and solitude being lived out, we are uncomfortable with these biblical practices. So much so that we have to play some background music or fill the space with some noise. But we desperately need silence. No noise, no talking, no phones, no interruptions. Quieting ourselves down completely so we can hear God. We have a lot of noise and clutter in our life that dulls our awareness of God’s voice. This is not easy. Try it. It is hard to erase from your mind concerns of self, family, church, schedule, finances, agendas and the list goes on. We shy away from silence and solitude because we are uncomfortable being alone. In fact, instead of using them as spiritual disciplines to deepen our intimacy with God we use them to punish our children. In Matthew 6:5-9 Jesus invites us to get alone with God, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” It’s here that he instructs us in how to pray as we are given what has become known as the Lord’s prayer. Yet instead of stepping into this place of silence and solitude I think so often we stay away from time alone with God because we are afraid of the silence. If we are honest, we are addicted to the noise and distractions. We have become an ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) society. We are so afraid of the silence that we chase ourselves from one activity to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves. But what if we responded to Jesus invitation to get alone with God where we shut the world out and let Him in. Where is your room, your secret place, are you ready to close the door on the world and open up your room to God? In the quiet we hear His voice; we enjoy fellowship with Him. We need time to talk to God, but also to listen as He talks to us. What we find in the secret place, is silence and solitude, where we can pray without distractions. Silence is not to be shunned as empty space, but to be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God. Its motivating desire is to be free from the addiction to noise so we can be totally focused on the Lord; to open ourselves to God in a place beyond noise. Solitude involves scheduling enough uninterrupted time in a distraction-free environment that you experience isolation and are alone with God. We tend to see isolation as a prison experience, yet it provides freedom for our heart and mind. Solitude is a regenerative practice of being in His presence. I will never forget spending uninterrupted intentional time with God at a Monastery in the north of Scotland. After a week of silence and solitude I reentered the world and was shocked by how loud it was. I had never realized because I was so accustomed to the noise. We may see this intentional coming away to be still before God as strange, but Jesus often walked away from the busyness of life to get alone with the Father. Many times, it was when the crowds were at their biggest, when we might be tempted to capitalize on the success that Jesus got away to be alone with His Father. We see this in Mark 1:29-39 where Jesus goes off to a solitary place to pray and Simon and the disciples go looking for Him and tell Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you!” But Jesus replies, “Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Let’s go somewhere else! How did Jesus know when to go somewhere else especially when He was having such an impact where He was? It came out of spending time in silence and solitude with the Father. It was in these times that I believe Jesus reaffirmed 3 things.
- He clarified who his Father was
- He clarified who he was in relation to the father (The beloved son)
- He clarified what his Father wanted him to do
We are children of the King! But we forget who we are because we forget whose we are. Somewhere between 15-22 times in Gospels Jesus gets alone to pray. Who is your example for life? We know it should be Jesus but is it? Jesus was ok stepping away from the busyness of life to be quiet before God, are we? This pandemic and its radical timeout has reminded us that its ok to slow down and be still before God. The question is will we take advantage of this time and embrace silence and solitude or keep running, franticly trying to stay busy, through social media, tv and anything else we can use to drown out the silence? What if instead of trying to constantly create activities for our kids so they will be busy, we created space for silence so they could be healthy? This pandemic has reminded us that we are not as essential as we think, that the world can function without us. But we didn’t need a pandemic to teach us that, just take a stroll through a graveyard. They are full of people the world couldn’t function without until it did. What if during this time of isolation, we developed a discipline for silence and solitude so that when we reentered our hustle and bustle world we did so with a quiet confidence because we had heard the heartbeat of God in the silence. Jesus taught that prayer starts with our Father. Will you close the door on the world and go into your room of silence and solitude to be alone with God? Jesus invites you into the secret place will you go.