We're reading through Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life as a church. Join us this week in chapter ten, Silence and Solitude...for the Purpose of Godliness.
There were days in college when it felt like I just couldn't get time alone. People were everywhere: roommates in the room, friends on the dorm floor or hanging out at “our” blue couches, or acquaintances and potential new friends in the cafeteria and other common areas.
On some of those occasions, I would get in my car and drive up into the foothills of Virginia that bordered my university. Within a mile of campus, the road became so desolate that there was no longer a posted speed limit. I remember racing up the mountain, feeling like I was escaping from the world.
In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney writes, “…sometimes our souls crave separation from noise and crowds into silence and solitude.” That’s exactly how I felt on those solitary drives up the mountain. The ride up was sometimes accompanied by music, but more often it was me venting my frustrations out loud in prayer to God. The slower drive back down the mountain, sometimes only 15 minutes later, would be quiet and more reflective. While those drives had some elements of silence and solitude, I missed the chance to really use those times to focus on God and, instead, more often focused on my perceived problems. It wasn't until reading this chapter that I realized those times could have been opportunities to practice silence and solitude.
In this chapter, Whitney outlines nine reasons to seek to grow in silence and solitude. One of those is to regain a spiritual perspective. Drawing away from the routines and noise will allow us to realign our thoughts and hearts on God. Time in silence and solitude will change the way you approach life. Whitney writes, "But more than anything else, the disciplines of silence and solitude can be so transfiguring because they provide time to think about life and to seek God." It's not just about withdrawing from your life, it's about putting the focus back on the Lord.
Ways to experience solitude
Like me, you may have a busy life. You might say that you don't have time or you have too many demands on your schedule. Start small. But start now.
Brief. Grab those fleeting moments or what Whitney calls “minute retreats,” to pause and reflect on God, perhaps while stopped at a red light or waiting for an appointment. When you notice you have downtime, rather than pulling out your phone to check Facebook or play a game, use those minutes toward growing in godliness.
Daily. Spend time in silence and solitude at some point on a daily basis. Ten minutes of reflection before heading out the door in the morning. Time in the car before returning home at the end of the day, a time of quiet prayer before heading to bed at night. Practicing daily, whether in “minute retreats” or longer, prepares us for the next level.
Extended. Plan time in your schedule to get away, whether for a few hours or for a day. The Rule of Life introduced at the beginning of the Abide series and later discussed by Aarik Danielsen is one example of an extended time in silence and solitude to seek God for a particular purpose.
You may feel at odds for what to do during these times, especially during an extended time in solitude. Bring your Bible and possibly a journal. Plan a portion of scripture to read and meditate on, using other disciplines mentioned earlier in the book. Pray (a lot). Regarding how to spend your time in solitude, I like how Rob Gaskin put it during our Rooted sermon series a few years ago: "Here’s the rhythm we should be walking through: we pray, we meditate, and we pray. We pray, then we reflect, and then we pray. We pray, then we read, and then we pray. We pray, and then we sing, and then we pray."
What is one way you can withdraw and spend time in silence and solitude with God with what is left of today?
Look at your calendar. Can you schedule time for an extended getaway for silence and solitude, even if just one hour?
If you've read the chapter, what reasons appeal to you for spending time in silence and solitude?
This post was written by Janice Seagraves. Janice serves as deacon over communications in Karis Church. She is married to Tom.
To read more posts from the Abide series, click here.