Silence. It’s quite challenging and the most amazing gift.
Dallas Willard wrote, “When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, that this world is ‘my Father’s world.'”
I was introduced to the practice of silence and solitude a few years ago, with a book about the enneagram, by Chris Heuertz. From there, it beckoned to me like a unopened Oreo package or a breezy spring walk, and yet I still held it at arms’ length. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and being both unsettling and wonderful, it slowly eased its way into almost every area of my life.
Silence in spiritual habits — Putting down books and journals and even my own words, allowing God to be what’s most wonderful, not my methods.
Silence internally — “What deadens us most to God’s presence within is the inner dialogue that we are engaged in within ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought.” Frederick Buechner
Silence in tasks and activity — Driving without the radio on, cleaning without music or a podcast playing, sitting with my own thoughts for awhile.
Silence in my speech — Resisting the temptation to always make a comment or defend myself, listening more than I talked, resting in God’s love more than I proved myself worthy of it.
The presence of God is poured out most generously when there is space in our souls to receive Him.RUTH HALEY BARTON, via
Silence is humility. The practice of silence has a way of increasing your capacity because you have made more room to fill up. Silence allows God to care for me instead of my caring for myself by impressing, pleasing, figuring, planning, defending, etc. Silence slows my pace enough to be fully present where my feet are planted, to receive whatever God may have for me, and to see clearly the person or need before me.
Noise, whether it be positive or negative, distraction, entertainment, teaching or dialogue, when it makes up every waking moment of every day files us down until the goal is only survival. We’re dull, not sharp. Sluggish, not strong. Tired, not energized.
Now, let’s be real. We live lives surrounded by noise, some we choose (our emotional toddler), some we don’t (24 hour news and social media feeds). But we DO get to choose. We can’t ignore or make our toddler’s needs disappear, but we can be wise about quieting noises within our control. Making space for silence and solitude will create reservoirs of soul-rest for when we enter the noisiest of situations.
Jan Johnson says, “Disciplines of engagement help us take in the life of God. Disciplines of abstinence, however, such as fasting, solitude, silence, chastity, secrecy, frugality and simplicity of speech and time, help us let go of life-draining behaviors. We need to exhale what is unnecessary as well as inhale nourishment from God.”
Jeanne Guyon said, “The more passive and peaceful you remain, the more quickly you will advance toward God. The freer you are from exerting your own effort, the more quickly you will move toward your Lord.”
Psalm 62 says, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
Now more than ever, I believe I, and the Church if I can be so bold, need to regularly be hearing another Voice, and sometimes that requires quieting others and even ours.
In silence, agendas, expectations and distractions are edged out, leaving only us and our transcendent yet personal God. To wait in silence is to come to our Father as we are, honestly, humbly, not hiding our struggles or performing for love. In silence, we position ourselves in the presence of God and find rest for our souls.
With times of silences, start small, with a realistic goal, and begin there. Maybe it’s 5 minutes or 30 minutes on your drive to work. Maybe once a week/month you employ what I call “monk hours,” turning off your phone and saying no to chores for a few hours at a time for uninterrupted Scripture reading or asking questions of your Father. Schedule regular breaks from news or social media platforms. Allow yourself the freedom to simplify your routine for a day, or a for a nap time, or a for weekend, and meditate on a single verse, attribute of God or to listen. When you start trying these things, you will most likely be bombarded with distractions and the temptation to fill the space some sort of noise. Give yourself grace, but lean in to the wonder of acknowledging God’s presence with you (Isaiah 41:10).
Silence and solitude is a journey I am only a few years in but learning a great deal seemingly all the time. More to come for you consistent readers of this blog. (PS – you’re awesome!)