This week we looked at two radically countercultural practices: silence and solitude. We are the most connected and overstimulated generation in history. We are always looking for the new idea in business or parenting, the new skin treatment, the new workout routine. Silence and solitude confront our culture’s demands.
silence and solitude together
These two spiritual disciplines are so closely related that they are often discussed together and sometimes, interchangeably. These two disciplines not only make the most sense when they are studied together, but they should also be engaged in together.
We learned this week that silence allows us to hear from the Lord and grow in self-control. Solitude is an attitude of the heart more than an actual place and can be entered into anywhere. Even in someplace crowded with people, if her heart is ready, a believer can meet “alone” with God.
practicing silence and solitude
When you add a new discipline to your spiritual life, it is best to start slow. Look for pockets of solitude already built into your day: your morning coffee before anyone else is awake, your shower, your daily run, and the like. During these times turn off your phone, unplug from other distractions, and be alone in silence and mindfully connect with God.
To grow in a particular discipline, you must engage it with intentionality. Trying silence and solitude may be awkward for you at first, but soon you will find yourself craving this time, and you will be able to set aside longer periods of time to devote to it. Some people can reserve places in their homes to use as a retreat from the world, where they can enter into solitude. But privacy at home is often a hard thing to come by, so it’s important to find some backup places like a secluded park bench, the parking lot of your favorite coffee shop, or maybe even borrowing a friend’s apartment while she is away on a monthly work trip. For some of us, leaving home for solitude is not an option. In this case, talk to those you share your home with about your need for time alone and let them help you. Make arrangements for your husband to take the kids for an hour, or work out a signal so family members or housemates can know and respect when you are having alone time.
We know that freedom is one of the outcomes of silence and solitude, so freedom should also be kept in mind when we plan to engage it. You may know someone or have a mentor who is able to engage in solitude on a daily basis because she has been practicing it for years and has built up her appetite for time alone. But everyone’s situation is different. Pace yourself. Even though it is helpful to have wiser person with experience to show you the way, don’t expect yourself to instantly reach the place it has taken them years to get to.
If you are the kind of person who gravitates toward solitude, it will be important for you (and the rest of us) to remember that solitude and silence were not given solely for individual benefit but also for the body of Christ. After your time alone, remember to share with your community the things the Lord has given you, so they can share in your freedom and joy.
What will be most challenging about practicing silence and solitude?
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