There are days I find myself hiding in the shower, hot water beating down my neck, searching for the elusive moments of quiet I desperately need. Whether it is the noise from a family, a growing online business, our young church or our latest endeavor starting a new local concert house, I find myself craving an escape from the constant chatter of computers, smart phones, voices, music and the never ceasing tug of war on my attention.
Every new thing, every new gadget I need to keep track of my life, every new responsibility God entrusts to me adds more noise. Yet, I could argue that a full life of serving God in community with others and providing for our family is good noise, right?
Yet, there are times when I sense the noise in my life is not so good. Such as when I have moments to myself where I could sit in silence and just spend time in the presence of God, yet by habit and nervous energy I reach for more unnecessary communication instead.
I was fascinated by the insights in the book Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster:
…a day filled with noise and voices can be a day of silence. If the noises become for us the echo of the presence of God, if the voices are for us, messages and solicitations of God. When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence behind. When we repeat the intimate words of God that he has left within us, our silence remains intact.
Foster quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book Life Together:
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.
Lately I’ve been trying to discern the good noise and the not-so-good noise, and the balance between community and alone time in my life. I’m trying to find ways to practice the discipline of solitude in a life that often feels anything but quiet.
Foster recommends several ideas for practicing solitude that I’m trying to implement myself. Perhaps you’d find them helpful as well?
1. Take advantage of “little solitudes” that fill our day:
Early moments in bed before the family awakens.
A morning cup of coffee before the day begins.
The solitude of time in the car by myself.
Embracing the quiet short walk to the mailbox.
We may not have the opportunity for longer periods of solitude, but we can capture little moments as we go about our day. By really embracing those moments we do have for inner quiet, we can be fully present where we are. We can use those moments to reorient our lives like a compass.
2. Find a quiet place.
We have a family room designed as a place to spend time together, but do we have a quiet room to be alone? My quiet room used to be our bedroom. But somehow lately it has become a new hub of activity with dogs, laundry and people! So while I could try to reclaim the peace there (and would if there were no other option!), I’m working on redesigning my home office to give myself a serene place that is off limits to dogs, laundry and noise. It is essential to my sense of health and spiritual balance in life to find that space I can retreat from the world.
3. Use words that are few and full.
Clearly these days we have an abundance of ways to communicate. We can run to the computer or our phones to share words and pictures in dozens of different ways all day long. But what exactly are we sharing and receiving every time we log on? Even though the Celebration of Discipline predates the internet, Foster’s words are surprisingly even more true today:
A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image. We fear so deeply what we think others see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding.
Wow. No wonder being online often leaves me weary and longing for silence! That frantic stream of words and pictures is often noise, distracting me from the presence of God.
I want to strive for more silence by being more selective in words I read, write and speak both at home and online.
4. Withdraw for three or four hours four times a year to reorient life goals.
Longer times of solitude can be so valuable in our quest to seek direction and focus in life. Foster says “our tendency is to over estimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years.” By rushing to set too lofty of goals for too short of a time frame, I might feel compelled to get wrapped up in my own agendas and successes, rather than allowing the will of God to be discovered, revealed and practiced in my life. The frantic rush to succeed fills life with an abundance of noise and chaos, rather than trusting in an all powerful God to supply our every need.
In order to set a healthy rhythm and pace for my life, I need to build in time for silence and reflection as well as time for action and accomplishment. By setting aside that time for reorienting goals several times a year, I’m reminded of my need for the space and time to hear more from God.
Do you wrestle with finding solitude in life filled with noise?
What are some ways you are seeking more quiet this year?
Melissa @ The Inspired Room