Last Wednesday many of you had the opportunity to be a part of our latest Equip training on “Organizing Chaos.” You can find the podcast, notes, and handouts from this event HERE. At this equip training we discussed how life is ridiculously busy and how we are all searching for some sort of semblance of “balance.” However, I shared that achieving balance in life is impossible. We then spent the rest of the evening discussing how to develop a “Rule of Life” to live by (For a great resource on developing your own rule of life check out Steve Macchia’s Crafting a Rule of Life). I shared Peter Scazzero’s definition of a rule of life from his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. He defines a rule of life as “an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do.” We then discussed why a rule of life has everything to do with organizing the chaos in our life. As we closed out the evening we discussed how, when we can keep God at the center of everything we do, interestingly enough, life becomes a lot more organized.
One of the elements of developing a rule of life that we were not able to spend a lot of time on was the spiritual priorities we need to make in our life. Over the next four weeks I want to share with you four “spiritual disciplines” that I believe are essential to keeping God at the center of our lives. Spiritual disciplines can be defined as disciplines that promote spiritual growth. If we want to organize the chaos in our lives I believe we need to incorporate these disciplines in some form or fashion.
When we think about “spiritual disciplines,” one thing we rarely think about is silence and solitude. How many of you have a hard time sleeping without some sort of noise playing in the background? How many of you are always listening to music or feel as though you have to fill silence with some sort of sound? In our culture today silence and solitude scare us to death. Jesus, however, embraced silence and solitude. In a handful of places in the Gospels, Jesus withdrew to a place for silence and solitude (see Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). Often times if Jesus did something, he did it so that we would model him. In this instance, I believe Jesus withdrew for silence and solitude first to commune with God but secondly, to provide us with an example.
We need silence and solitude in our lives because we need to be intentional in creating space for God. When we are surrounded by so much noise and distraction, we leave little room for God. However, when we are intentional to put silence and solitude in our lives, room is made specifically for God. In those times we can openly speak to God and clearly hear from him because there is nothing distracting our communion with him. This is true even in earthly relationships. There have been many times in my marriage where my wife was speaking to me and because there were so many distractions, both internally and externally, I failed to hear what she was telling me. The same is true for our relationship with God. When we set time aside for silence and solitude we are setting aside time to be with God. When we spend time with God he transforms us. Many of us are “spending time” with God to learn more about him, and this certainly is important. But if all we do is try to learn more about God, often times we will fail to simply enjoy God’s presence. We must cultivate a habit of silence and solitude not just to learn more about God but also to spend quality time in his presence.
So how do we do it? While putting silence and solitude in our lives might seem simple, most of us are so used to noise and distraction that silence and solitude is difficult. I would encourage you to do a few small things first. First, find a place where you are comfortable. For some of you this is outside. For others it is sitting on your couch. You alone know where you are most comfortable. Secondly, set aside all distractions. Turn your phone off, do not listen to music, and do whatever you can to be completely undistracted. Thirdly, begin with a short amount of time. If you’ve never practiced silence and solitude, an hour of it might be a little unrealistic. Maybe five minutes of silence and solitude is a good place to begin then work your way up to longer periods of it. Finally, empty your mind. I find this to be the most difficult of steps. As soon as I wake in the morning, my mind begins to think and process. In order to empty my mind of distractions I have to breathe deeply and focus on these breaths. When I do this my mind can become emptied of thoughts and distractions.
Silence and solitude is often associated with prayer and Bible reading. Next week we will talk about how we can be faithful to pray and read the Bible. Silence and solitude is important because they prepare our hearts to commune with God when we pray and read the Bible. When we practice silence and solitude we can more clearly begin to talk with God and hear from him.
So my challenge for you this week is to practice silence and solitude. Figure out when to do it and go do it. See how God uses it to restore your soul and commune with him.