I’m a preacher and the stereotype for preachers is that we like to hear ourselves speak. It’s different when I am alone. When I am alone I grow tired of my inner voice. It’s too critical. Sometimes I am the last person I want to hear from. That may appear too self-deprecating, but for me I talk too much and I may fall in love with my own thoughts instead of the mind of God. I also may love preaching too much. There is a tension to manage of wanting to be around people so that they might like me and wanting to glorify God.
Silence and solitude help me to quell man’s praise and quiet my inner voice.
Sometimes I just want to do nothing and let creation sing. Sometimes I just want to waste time with God.
Although not a book on communing with God, Pico Iyer’s Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere was inspired by singer and song writer Leonard Cohen’s life of simplicity and solitude. You may have heard of Cohen’s most famously covered song “Hallelujah,” performed by various recording artists. Iyer would say of Cohen after interviewing him, “Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”
In silence and solitude, I have gotten so caught up in the moment that I have felt small. My awareness is heightened to the unbelievable fact that I am on an immense planet in an infinite solar system, full of countless stars. The sky bright blue in the daytime; orange, purple and pink at dusk; the evenings twinkle, and are governed by Mr. Moon.
My heart is full of praise, “Brilliantly done God! Bravo! Do it again! Do it again.”
God doesn’t need my voice to praise him.
“The fact is there is nothing that we are doing that God could not raise up a stone in the field to do for him. The realization of this puts us in our true place. Though, lest we get too knocked down by such a realization of our insignificance, let me hasten to add that there is one thing that we alone can give God… and that is our personal love. No one else can give God our personal love. This is our great significance.” – M. Basil Pennington.
From this humble vantage point is where I believe we can be most praiseful. “The longing for solitude is the longing for God,” says Ruth Haley Barton. Her words are dripping with irony when she says in regards to solitude, “It is the practice that spiritual seekers down through the ages have used to experience intimacy with God rather than just talking about it.”
We are bombarded by noise and busyness – the constant need to be connected to work and the world.
There is a genuine fear in our lives of missing out that terrorizes our weary souls.
A third of cell owners have been told they don’t check their phones frequently enough. Thirty-nine percent of cell owners say people complain because they don’t respond promptly to phone calls or text messages. (Pew internet and American Life Project).
There’s no room for silence and we want everything instant.
Ruth Haley Barton shares how in a time of solitude and silence at a spiritual formation retreat, she entered the place where they were to eat and immediately began to cry as God attended to her need for stillness. There was no pressure to talk and even as she cried she did not feel the anxiety of someone asking, “Are you ok?” Later, she was transparent as she described a meeting with her spiritual director. Her director said to her,
“Your soul is tired and battered. You can’t do anything until you rest, and it may take longer than you think.”
The Psalmist says this, “In silence my soul waits for you, and you alone, Oh God. From you alone comes my salvation” (Psalm 62:1).
Come away and waste time with God. Rest in him alone. He alone can heal your weary soul – and it may take longer than you think.