There are a few days a week when the house becomes so still I can hear it groan and creak. Birdsong becomes clear, and I can almost hear the wind weave through our backyard trees from inside. I hear the coming and going of my neighbors alongside of all the thoughts I’ve been kept from when our house is loud, bustling, and full.
The silence and solitude are all at once both refreshing and terrifying. In short, silence isn’t the norm for me these days. As a mom of three, when I’m not refereeing arguments or feeding my ever-growing kids, I’m navigating through the noise of people coming and going; I’m connecting with others in the noise of social media, email inboxes that are always too full, and a million more messaging apps that now fill my phone screen. And it’s not just online: the noise in a crowded sanctuary can be overwhelming, the sound of needs and desire for attention from my family at the dinner table can be dizzying, and even in the grocery store, I’m bombarded by the noise of choices.
The culture I live in feels addicted to noise, even in the places that claim otherwise.
When I was little, there was a time in elementary school when recess was so overwhelming, I would go and hide in a bathroom stall. Locking the door and being in an enclosed space with physical boundaries I could see and feel, gave my anxious mind relief for a few needed minutes.
For the longest time, I never told anyone that I did this. From a young age, like water necessary for living, I drank the belief that quietness was wrong, and the message that loneliness was a disease that must be treated immediately. Needing quiet, needing to be alone, and being overwhelmed all felt like there was something wrong with me — something I learned to be ashamed of.
Most of us live in a system that values productivity, programming, busyness, and noise. So often, even good things, like pushes for community and connection, get lumped into this noise. Because of this system, a feeling of loneliness creates an internal spiral. A moment of quietness spurs us into a panic.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for isolation and rugged independence. I wholeheartedly believe in community; I even wrote about grieving it and rebuilding it my last article here. But I’m weary of the conversations around community that zoom in on quiet and seasons of loneliness as if they are bad or wrong. I’m weary of the message that making margin for quiet space is selfish. I’m frustrated by the cookie-cutter promises that say following these five steps will free you from being alone as if community can be made by to-do lists and slot machine prayers. Lonely seasons and quiet space not only give us needed fuel and margin, they can teach us how to be present and authentic in our lack, our need, and our bodies. Though it seems counterintuitive, it’s the addiction to noise, lack of margin, idolizing community, and inability to be alone with God that lead us to burnout, bitterness, and eventually, living isolated lives.
The experience of God’s presence in my loneliest moments and years are treasures to me now. I didn’t know God’s name when I hid in the bathroom all those years ago, but I still remember a comforting presence with me, one that didn’t ask me to be louder, but gave me stillness and breathing room. Years later, when I read David’s words about a God with him in his mother’s womb and the same God with him in the darkness of his own failures, I already knew and understood that presence. I could look back and see how God had met me and stood with me in hidden places of quiet, sadness, and longing, long before I knew who God was.
On the days that are quiet, I try to keep them that way, counting them a gift. I remember the imaginary stall doors in mind: boundaries to breathe, be, and find God with me. I’m reminded that I am not a machine, nor will I find what I need by grasping for control or reaching for more noise. No, I am a beloved person who is kept, held, seen, and created to be dependent on my Creator.
If I will allow it, the quiet spaces lead me and keep me. Loneliness isn’t wrong, nor is it a destination — it’s a momentary teacher and companion that leads me to God and others. It’s a space where I am comforted and learn how to comfort in return. It’s what leads me forward in seeing others, building community and deep, authentic connection.
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Leave a Comment
Thank you for this Tasha. I am a lonely widow. I have a daughter and son in law who live in another country. My only family is my church. They try to be there as much as they can, but they have their own families and problems and things they need to deal with. Sometimes I feel that I am a bother. I was never like this. Not having my calm, godly husband here during these turbulent times creates great loneliness and fear. God is my Father and I need to talk to Him and come to Him now with my feelings. He hears me and has answered many prayers. How long do I need to be in this state of loneliness? I don’t know. But God does. He is trying to tell me something. Hopefully I get it soon! God bless you!
Trina, I’m so sorry for the grief you carry. I’m glad for the community you have, though it’s altered from what it was before. That is so hard and it’s okay that it’s hard. I pray that in the spaces that feel empty or unfamiliar now, you will find God there with you – reminding you that you are never a bother, but a delight to be with. May you know your feelings – all of them – are welcome with God and held with tenderness and grace.
I hope you know that you and your feelings are also welcome here, in this (in)courage community. We are happy you are here.
Hilary VanUtt says
The addiction to noise- spot on. There are spiritual disciplines I think that we chose not to embrace like solitude or stillness because it is then perhaps a fear of what the Holy Spirit might bring to our minds, to remind us, to challenge us, or even to convict us. I too believe it is a place of comfort and a space of growth. I am reminded that in Him, I need not be alone, He is always with me, and it takes these times of loneliness to bring me back into His presence.
Hilary, you are right. I know I have been afraid or prone to grasp for the noise, for those very reasons at times. I’m grateful God is so gracious and kind and draws us towards good, even then. So glad you are part of this community.
Trina, I could not have said it any better. I, too, am a widow, and feel as you. Both my children live in different states; my friends have families nearby and are involved with their children and grandchildren. I have my church family but do not want to bother them. I am coming to terms with being on my own, with being alone but am also reaching out to God more than I ever have. Some days I cherish the solitude but other days it is hard. I reach out via texts and phone calls just saying hello to keep the connection but I do not always get a response until much later. I find doing for others is a help. I am retired and am trying to go back to volunteering now that I feel a little safer regarding covid. And Tasha, there are days I purposely avoid contact with others as best I can. I embrace the quiet now, I have my pity parties, and give myself permission to be sad. I realize I am still in the midst of grieving. And this is the best I can do at the moment.
Madeline and Trina, I’m glad you two can connect here – may you be an encouragement to each other in the similar specifics in the life season you are both in.
I have days when it’s hard too, Madeline. The empty space really stretches me when I’m hoping for a response or feel a lack of connection. May God’s nearness become even nearer on those days. Glad you are here.
Lonely, yet never alone, oh yes! Jesus with us, I too am finding myself at a crossroads in life. All of the children and grandchildren are living in different places across the country and having moved, finding it more difficult than usual to connect with the people here, alone! However hearing His voice, I am listening!! I feel He has something and I am waiting, I will trust! I know He always has good for His children. I do appreciate the opportunity to have the peace and quiet with strangeness that is going on in the world these days! Praise God He has us in His hands.
I hope you’ll experience God nearer than ever as you encounter this shifting season, Linda. We are glad you are here.
AMEN! I LOVE THIS! In a lonely season The Holy Spirit whispered to me this. Loneliness is just an invitation to get closer to Jesus.
Thank you, Amy! I’m so glad you have that moment to hold fast to and remember.
Theresa Boedeker says
Loved your description of God being with you in the bathroom stall. As a young girl I used to hide to get some silence and calm. Luckily somewhere along my 30’s I realized I needed quiet spaces to breathe and think. And it is during these times I feel closest to God and to myself. I love people dearly, but also silence.
Theresa, now I wonder how many others there were, like me or you, that needed this space as young kids. I’m glad to know it’s not just me-even now. Glad you are here!
I have always been a lover of quiet and stillness. I can’t imagine being condemned for it. Perhaps excluded sometimes, for my weirdness, but not condemned. Or maybe I wasn’t aware of it. The hard part is finding community between the quiet times. That is a struggle for me.
Yes, that can be hard, Irene. May you find it in unexpected ways-with God and others.
I’m not sure I was ever condemned for it outright, but there’s always been a push for “louder,” at least, in my experience.
Over the past few years I have lost my Mom she was my BFF, my FIL and my 2 beloved 18 year old kitties and my a close Friend also I was diagnosed with stage 3 Ovarian Cancer which thank God I am presently no evidence of disease my wonderful Husband and I got married in our 40’s for the first time we have no Children or Family but we have each other recently I was experiencing a lot of anxiety out of no where needless to say I overacted to a long time Friend who can be a bit self absorbed I told her that I needed space at the moment as I also have been seeing a counselor to put things in perspective she put pressure on me wanted me to engage in a conversation which I am not at a place to do demanded that I would be her Friend or not I pretty much said this is my time and not about her didn’t end well. I have also joined a church that I like and just finished a 5 week Bible study have emailed the Pastor that spearheaded the group as we transition to small home groups no reply since I’m church shy this has not bode well for me I really want to make new Friends I may look into other small groups.
Tammy, I’m so sorry for the losses you have experienced. And I’m sorry your friend did not honor your needs and boundaries. I know it can be hard enough to voice those things for yourself but we’re brave to do so.
We are glad you are here.
This is wonderful
Thank you, Kelly!
Heidi, thanks so much.
Exactly! Remember all the people that were “forced” to stay home during COVID-19. They rediscovered the priority of Family. They Promised to not let the Busy-ness & Noise of life’s demands take over them, after the Lockdowns we’re over!
For too many of those people, it’s like they’re living life at an even crazier pace now. So they can make up for the time the Pandemic restricted them.
I find God best in Quietness. I hear His Still Small Voice in Solitude; not when I make “Quiet Time” for Him, in my busy schedule.
Honestly, though I’m learning and choose quiet often, it can still be difficult for me to not fall into thinking I should be noisier (with my voice and lifestyle), so I understand the pull you mention-especially after the last few years. I’m grateful for the way God’s gently pursues me, never condemning, even when I choose to try running and keeping at a crazy pace.
Nancy Ruegg says
Years ago I would have described myself as an extrovert. But slowly over the decades, I’ve become an introvert. Time alone, especially quiet time with God, fuels my spirit, preparing me for ministering to others when I’m with them. You are right, Tasha: when we don’t set boundaries on the noise and busy-ness we run the risk of harming ourselves and those around us.
“God’s first language is silence . Everything else is a translation.” Thomas Keating
Contrary to popular culture this truth remains – thank you for sharing your message Tasha
Beth Williams says
Used to laugh at my husband for wanting to be alone on his computer. That was until I got a job as ICU clerical at large hospital. Now our days are filled with noise from phones, telemetry, RN call buttons & over head pagers. Some days it can be overwhelming & I drive home with radio off. Lysa Terkeurst said it best in her book Your Best Yes “Saying yes to everyone & everything won’t make you Wonder Woman. It will make you a worn out woman with nothing left to give anyone”. Scientists have discovered that all this constant loud noises, doing, striving isn’t just annoying. It causes a myriad of health issues including stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, & heart disease.
Jesus’s way of living while counterintuitive to culture is actually very healthy. He commands us to sit/be still & hear His voice. Praying that everyone can find a way to put margin or white space on your calendars. Give yourself permission to rest spiritually, mindfully, & bodily.
Tricia Jones says
So good. In my quietness with God I have been able to hear Him more clearly. Silencing the noises all around including my emotions. God has been the only one who has taken the hardship and turn it into something beautiful.