Monday, April 03, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines: Solitude and Silence

Ever get tired? That is me today…time to unplug and rest and clear my mind of distractions.

If you read throughout scripture we see that many writers agree that to speak much is a vice and to keep silent is a virtue. Although Jesus did teach he also spent time alone using it for prayer and reflection. This spiritual discipline is probably the most necessary of them all. As Richard Foster once said “silence involves more than the absence of speech, but always the act of listening.” Foster develops the idea that simply not talking is not silence, but one must also listen to GOD.

We need times of silence and solitude so that we can listen better, so that we can hear what GOD is saying to us. Also we need silence and solitude so that we can learn from ourselves when we turn off all the stimuli around us, that is so much a part of our world.

So today, I unplug, turn off and disengage and attempt to listen to what GOD has to say to me. I wonder if each of us really desire, but also fear being plugged into GOD? Because when that happens we much confront our deadliest sins and darkest doubts and it is at times not a great place to be. Many people cannot handle silence and just being alone. I encourage you to try it. Better yet, I challenge you to do it! Spend a half day and just unplug, go to a park, out in the country, take a walk. For some it is scary and lonely and for others even oppressive, but let me encourage you that often it turns into joy and peace, after a time.

Love to hear your thoughts.


Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

For me, the discipline of silence is best served when practiced in nature. Living in the city, I miss this a great deal. Thanks for the reminder.


Little Worshiper said...

It's so wierd how I long for silence and listening to God. And yet it seems so difficult to get away and actually do it.

MLight said...

I love solitude and silence, although it's hard to come by (I homeschool our three children - one is a night owl, one likes to get up early, and one is a talkative, seven-year-old boy). I often get the feeling, however, that this love of quiet is not really a "Christian" thing - because a good church member will be running around a lot to every program possible. And we've done that too, in the past (right now I have health issues - you can't run around a lot if driving makes you dizzy).

I'm also a very quiet person and tend to listen more than I talk. Which, again, comes in fine when listening to 7 yo boys, teens, or elderly neighbors, but seems out of place at church where being outgoing and talkative is the norm.

So, thank you for the encouragement to silence and solitude.

SoulPastor said...

Hey All,

Been sick this week...practicing silence! It is great, even in the city. Just turned everything off and attempted to relax...the park is also not too far off, but it is not a good place to go when one is sick.

You do have an interesting observation about the hustle and bustle of being involved in a church! Care to expand?

kenny said...

Being employed full time, taking a university course as well as an intense relational and sexual healing course (Living Waters...which I highly recommend) and working part time, has given me little time to "think" or to just sit and relax. I can honestly say, I got a bit choked up just writing that last sentence. Why? Because, I long to just sit in solitude, on a beach far from here. Watching the waves crash in. Or walking amongst the tall cedars, engulfing me in the density of creation. I have longed for that during the past month. I love creation and I enjoyed the west coast very much.
I think now too as things are coming to a close, university course is done this week, living waters is done this week, I can take a few days.

To reflect on all God is doing.
To commune with him in creation.
To listen.

God has a way of speaking to me even through the stimuli. He is faithful even when I am not. So I am grateful for that. I think of Jesus, and how he needed time alone with his father. He went to the desert, he went to the garden. He walked a lot. I think that if he needed much more do we need that.

Sorry to hear you are sick, may this be a time of refreshment and healing for you unplug. My prayers are with you.

SoulPastor said...


I am with you...when I lived in Victoria, I often went to the ocean to sit and reflect. AWESOME! I do miss that no that the ocean here is all prairie.

I love your post, it is a song of praise!
Rock on!

MLight said...

Different churches seem to expect different levels of involvement, and I do best with churches where I can get more deeply involved in volunteering for one or two ministries. Our current church seems to expect, or at least it seems like they would like, both heavy involvement in ministries and attendance at social activities.

We tried this for the first year we were there. We attended about everything it was possible to attend with a preschooler along (and our preschooler spent more time in nurseries than our older children ever did at that age). Though the church part went okay (at least for a while), the rest of our lives didn't - we lost touch with neighbors, spent very little time with relatives, and got burnt out. I don't know how the other church members manage it!

I find that, in situations like these, I go on "autopilot." I go through my days not really listening - to God or anyone else! Activities get done, but relationships suffer. And, as time goes on, I'm far more concerned with relationships than activities.

I also find that God speaks to me sometimes at the strangest times. It's not always (in fact, hardly ever) during my planned times of reading and prayer. I try to have times during the day and the week that are unscheduled (again, while homeschooling three, that's not always easy) - partly because I need the rest and space, and partly because you never know what will happen.

I often take these times to garden or take walks. That's when I come up with most of my writing for my blog (in fact, I carry a small tape recorder on walks so I don't forget what I came up with by the time I get a chance to write). I also need time just to think and reflect. But, I've also ended up in all sorts of conversations with close neighbors and other people in my neighborhood. Some are just fun, and some are more serious, like discovering in an impromptu conversation with a neighbor that she has postpartum depression (I've dealt with this three times so I'm always willing to help women with it), or meeting a new, elderly neighbor (three blocks away) who needs help with yard work while her husband recovers from heart surgery. These are the sorts of things that don't come up in a brief, hurried conversation. There needs to be time to let the conversation unfold.

I've wandered all over, but I guess my point is that, for me, if I'm overly scheduled with activities, even good ones, there's less time to take care of the people that God has given me to take care of (family, relatives, or friends), and less time to listen to God - speaking either in silence or through the (often very quietly expressed) needs of others.