FIRST: Solitude and Silence
Let me be blunt…..my first experience with the spiritual discipline of solitude and silence was uncomfortably eye opening for me.
I was attending a spiritual retreat that incorporated the experience of solitude and silence…an eight-hour period integrated into the schedule. I thought, “Piece of cake….I can get in some reading and rest.” The retreat leader even provided a written directive if we needed something to help keep our focus during these quiet hours. I took on this written directive like a homework assignment. Upon completion of my reading and journaling task (which took about a total of 45 minutes) I looked around my room wondering what I would do next. I confess to you that I then took out the iron and ironing board and pressed my wardrobe for the week. Then the nagging voice in me said, “Now what?” I slowly realized that my “being” and “doing” had gotten extremely muddled.
Following this time of solitude and silence we shared together during worship how God spoke to us. Delegates stood and spoke of their intimate encounters with the Lord and my mind vacillated between a sense of failure (“Why didn’t I hear God like that?”) and superiority (“If I couldn’t hear from God, certainly no one else could.”) That first experience left me dry and disillusioned.
For me it’s Samuel’s statement, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
I thank God that He has orchestrated my life in such a way that I have had opportunity to experience silence and solitude on numerous occasions. After that experience, I needed to start with smaller bites of time: 5 minutes, then 10, then 20…an hour…then hours….and so on. I have found that a simple phrase repeated when my mind starts to wander is helpful. For me it’s Samuel’s statement, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10) This recalls for me that HE is Lord and I am not. It also helps me to return focus to the matter at hand….sitting in His presence and listening to what He has to say to me.
I’m still such a beginner in many respects. I’ve had times in my silence when I wondered if anything was accomplished. It is at those times that God lovingly reminds me that my time with Him is not to be an accomplishment or an achievement. I’ve also had times when I profoundly realize my truest self is simply a soul in God’s presence. That brings peace beyond words.