We're teaching a series on "Spiritual Disciplines" at our Tuesday night meetings. For those not familiar with the phrase "spiritual disciplines," it basically refers to those things that we can do to put ourselves in a position for God to transform our lives. The most common ones are things like prayer, fasting, Bible reading and meditation, etc. (Of course, you can also do these things and never be changed at all. We have to approach them desiring and willing to be changed - expectantly desiring to encounter God in them.)
Most of the spiritual disciplines are diametrically opposed to way our world works and the way that most of us live much of the time. Tonight we talked about solitude and silence. The more I think about these, the more I think it they are foundational to really encountering God. As you read through the gospels, you see that they were a regular part of Jesus' life. God tells us in Psalm 46 to "be still and know that I am God."
And yet they are so foreign to our times. We live in a world full of words and noise and busy-ness and hurry. And we buy into it. The first thing that many of us do when we get in the car or walk in the house is turn on the radio or television. Silence makes us nervous. The idea of solitude frightens us. Yet we miss so much from not slowing down, quieting down, and listening to God.
"There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, when we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on." Frederick Faber
Henri Nouwen calls solitude "the furnace of transformation."
What do we do about this? How do we find more time for silence and solitude?
Maybe the easiest way is in little, practical steps. Don't turn on the car radio. Don't turn on the television. Take advantage of the opportunities for "little solitudes" during the course of your day. Find a quiet place - a library, a park - where you can listen for the "incessant whispering" of God. Plan some solitude into your schedule on a regular basis - an afternoon a month, a couple of days a year.
I know I need more solitude and silence for my spiritual health and transformation. My guess is that so do many others. It goes against the norm of our culture. But it is what is needed for God's work in our lives.