Friday, July 15, 2005

A Bear Paw, a T.V., and the Audible Apparition.

“Can you identify with the practice? Turn on the “tube”. Leave it on. Don’t watch - just allow it to provide a distraction in daily living. Who cares what’s on? The presence of the picture and the audible apparition of sound make easy the way of escape from needing to face a gnawing question or working on a relationship that would benefit from solitude, devoted time, and the absence of distractions.

“Noise”, in fact, takes many forms. Television, music, work, recreation, hobbies, substance abuse, and so on increase the volume. We run, we work, we read, we watch and we avoid the questions that seem to call to us from the silence. In fact, working and remaining busy, even too busy, sometimes appears simpler to deal with than living life. Thinking, feeling, facing our mortality, and living at peace with those around us – now that is the hard part. The noise is easy; it’s even a bit comforting. Ultimately however, we must dampen the hullabaloo and face our challenges.

I hope it’s not cheating; however, I borrowed that bit from an earlier post on “
Room Noise”. It was prelude to an earlier portion of our study; yet, it fits too well with this week’s chapter on Solitude to exclude it from the discussion. Foster continues the thread. “Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane. We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.”

Why is it that we dread silence, being still, and being alone? Somewhere along the way of spiritual growth, we must begin to cherish the silence and find strength in solitude. Granted, we may not cherish loneliness. This makes perfect sense. After all, God did say, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Relationships matter. They are important. Foster chimes in, “But loneliness or clatter are not our only alternatives. We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear”.

Going quiet, getting still, and listening to God roots us deeply in the soil of confidence and courage. It re-orients us to God given goals and sustains us when the noise of living begins. To be at ease in our fellowship with Him and at peace with solitude grounds us in ways that clamor and activity can never do. “There is freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine Whisper better.”

I truly rejoice in the model of our Saviour. He knew the merit of community and retreat. The first part of his ministry, He spent time with His disciples and likewise withdrew to be alone. Many have called this season the “year of obscurity”. It was at least a prequel to the more public sending out and further training of which they would later partake. Yet, Christ continued - the whole of his ministry- to withdraw and pray. He said NO to always doing, serving, and staying in the midst of the crowds. He modeled time alone with His Father and shows the need that we have for silence and solitude is, in fact, a God-given need.

How can I be used of God to fill the gas-tanks of others if I never pause for refueling and maintenance? It’s absurd, yet, many times I feel guilty if I choose to stop for a bit of petrol, check the oil level, and clean the windscreen. I am so happy that Christ, God incarnate, knew – and still knows- what it is like to be human. He knew limitations. He felt weary. He got thirsty and He initiated solitude with His Father.

Foster gives 5 practical steps into solitude. I wish to underscore two.

1) Take advantage of the “little solitudes” that fill our day. The early morning moments before the family awakes. Lingering long over a cup of coffee before heading off to work. Etc. Can I do better at seizing the little points of grace that God allows to be woven into the fabric of a daily routine? Moreover, will I take off the head phones, turn off the TV, and allow God to adjust the thread, the warp and the woof in order to add more such time into my life?

2) Find and develop a “quiet place”. For me, it’s the quiet of my bedroom an hour or so before heading to the office or the airport. I can sit cross-legged on the bed, cup of coffee at hand, bible open, and simply retreat into fellowship with my Father. I so need His presence. Really, it’s more desperation than discipline. I’ve known too often what it’s like to try to run on spiritual fumes and I know I don’t do well when I try. It’s so much better to fill the tank than close my eyes, cross my fingers, and hope the fuel gauge allows for an unseen reserve when the needle hits Empty.

Both steps – when practiced – place us in a spot to be nourished by God whilst we listen to His whisper, leading, and heart. It develops the "fruit of solitude" in us. We become willing to listen more, speak less, be attentive, and yearn for His presence.

More can be said but Foster wraps it up nicely. “Don’t you feel a tug…?. Don’t you long for something more? It is the discipline of solitude that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and listen to God’s speech in the wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence”.


Blogger Paula said...

I like your analogy of filling your tank so you're not running on spiritual fumes. Good job. I continue to take note of how many times Jesus stayed in the 'lonely places'. People were always coming to look for him. When they found him, he ministered to them. But he knew when to find the quiet he needed so that he would be prepared to minister to them. He kept balance.

Anonymous pt said...

Well put -- and timely from my perspective. Our men's group just discussed John Loftness's article on Solitude in Disciplines for Life. (It's online; I'd provide a link but I'm not making an advert here. Feel free to email if you're interested.)

I like your point about the practice of a "quiet place" being "more desperation than discipline." I know it to be true, but I fail to act on it -- or, worse, I intentionally bury it in the din and discord of easy media. Thanks for the reminder.


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