Quieting the Noise
The greatest impact on my spiritual growth has been my exposure to and practice of spiritual disciplines. I was privileged to sit under the teachings of author and speaker Ruth Haley Barton (Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Invitation to Silence and Solitude) and was opened up to a whole new level of intimacy with God.
With silence and solitude, there are two areas that require the most focus, external distractions and internal ones
The greatest challenge in this process has been in the area of silence and solitude. With silence and solitude, there are two areas that require the most focus, external distractions and internal ones. Finding the time and space has not been an issue with me. For the most part, I can quiet the noise around me (my husband and I are at the “empty nest” stage of our lives). Where I’ve struggled the most, though, is quieting the inner noise.
The to-do lists. The phone calls I need to make and the emails I’m writing and re-writing in my head. Is everything ready for dinner or do I need to stop on the way home? Did I say something wrong when I was talking to her, she sure was acting strange. What did he really mean when he said that?
That’s always been the hard part for me.
I recently re-read the following by well-respected contemplative, Henri Nouwen, from his book, Making All Things New. It was a timely reminder for me in the area of quieting the inner chaos.
“Once we have committed ourselves to spending time in solitude, we develop an attentiveness to God’s voice in us. In the beginning, during the first days, weeks, or even months, we may have the feeling that we are simply wasting our time. Time in solitude may at first seem little more than a time in which we are bombarded by thousands of thoughts and feelings that emerge from hidden areas of our minds.
One of the early Christian writers describes the first stage of solitary prayer as the experience of a man who, after years of living with open doors, suddenly decides to shut them. The visitors who used to come and enter his home start pounding on his doors, wondering why they are not allowed to enter. Only when they realize that they are not welcome do they gradually stop coming.
This is the experience of anyone who decides to enter into solitude after a life without much spiritual discipline. At first, many distractions keep presenting themselves. Later as they receive less and less attention, they slowly withdraw.”
I like to think of it in this way. . . what you don’t feed will die! If those inner voices are trying to take you away from concentrated quiet time with the Lord continue to gently turn your attention to the Lord through any that draws your attention back to him.
Don’t be discouraged! This mental discipline takes perseverance. Remember. . . He works in ways we cannot see!