This semester, I’ve been taking Spiritual Formation & Guidance @ Lipscomb. On more than one occasion, I’ve been blown away by some of the new things I’ve been able to learn. Prior to recent times, I have never really “listened” to God speak to me. That point has been realized loudly and clearly. What I have realized is occurring is that I have been so daftly selfish in my prayer life, that I have asked and prayed God to “make me this… do this… thank you for this…” deeply ego-centric prayers.
Recently I’ve been blessed to spend time learning the ancient spiritual disciplines of silence & solitude. Do you have a practice of simply going away and wasting time with God? Do you have a place you go to just BE with God? A place, perhaps, where you go, and talk, and “listen” and just experience the opportunity of making yourself available to God. Maybe that’s an idea that is silly to you, but maybe you just haven’t begun to try. Maybe it’s something you’ve been doing for years, and you should have told me about it earlier!
God is Spirit, and those that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth. Jesus said these words. Was he challenging us to receive the Holy Spirit baptism of the Apostles? What he challenging only the woman at the well – the Samaritan with whom he shouldn’t even have spoken? I believe by extension of the inspiration of scripture that he was also speaking to us, perhaps in a peripheral way. A way in which we must come to understand that worshipping, communicating with, and abiding in GOD – is something that we have to do in some way since he gave the exhortation to do so. Do you have a place you go for that solitude and silence? While two distinctly different disciplines, they are often interwoven into one experience. Where is your place? Your home? probably not… a monastery? Nature? Jesus had a place… it behooves us to find one too.
If God is a spirit, how do we communicate with him? Is it only by the reading and comprehension of the word of God? Is there a way that we can come in contact with our spirit-self, and communicate with him on a level above, beyond, and away from the “stuff” of our lives? For me, that has recently been magnified through my understanding of solitude, and silence. Sometimes, it is going to sit on a rock for a 30 minute period… or maybe an hour. Not deliberately praying… but perhaps deliberately praying sometimes. Sometimes, it is on my bike, withOUT the iPod rockin’ out in my ears. Sometimes, it may be sitting by a stream, or sitting in my office, or my car, in complete silence. God desires our attention. To Job, God said, (Job 33)
31 “Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
32 If you have anything to say, answer me;
speak up, for I want to vindicate you.
33 But if not, then listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
And there’s this nugget from Luke 5:
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Why do we resist the opportunity to grow nearer to the Creator of all things? It is in times like these moments of solitude that if we allow God, he will speak to us in very clear terms. Not in an audible voice, but with such clarity and resonance that he may as well be standing next to us. Solitude and silence are about complete and selfless submission to God. Submission to his leading, to his answers, to his way of peace that comes only through submission to the cross of Christ. There may be days that you don’t hear him speaking. Other days, you may be so well in tune with the Spirit of God that you can nearly hear him speaking out loud about what you should do, how you should be, or what to purge in your life to most appropriately emulate Christ’s selfless example of true holiness.
It is in the common, temporal beauty of nature and solitude (not always in nature, of course) that God begins to give us focus and clarity, with such remarkable peace that it simply cannot be experienced apart from this venue. I’ll close with the words of Paul Tillich, a German theologian who said it very well in, “The Eternal Now”.
“In these moments of solitude something is done to us. The center of our being, the innermost self that is the ground of our aloneness, is elevated to the divine center and taken into it. Therein can we rest without losing ourselves.
Now perhaps we can answer a question you may have already asked — how can communion grow out of solitude? We have seen that we can never reach the innermost center of another being. We are always alone, each for himself. But we can reach it in a movement that rises first to God and then returns from Him to the other self. In this way man’s aloneness is not removed, but taken into the community with that in which the centers of all beings rest, and so into community with all of them. Even love is reborn in solitude. For only in solitude are those who are alone able to reach those from whom they are separated. Only the presence of the eternal can break through the walls that isolate the temporal from the temporal. One hour of solitude may bring us closer to those we love than many hours of communication. We can take them with us to the hills of eternity.
And perhaps when we ask — what is the innermost nature of solitude? we should answer — the presence of the eternal upon the crowded roads of the temporal. It is the experience of being alone but not lonely, in view of the eternal presence that shines through the face of the Christ, and that includes everybody and everything from which we are separated. In the poverty of solitude all riches are present. Let us dare to have solitude — to face the eternal, to find others, to see ourselves.” -Paul Tillich