“A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains
and shattered the rocks before God,
but God wasn’t to be found in the wind;
after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire;
and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.”
-1 Kings 19
For a long time, I have worked with artists, musicians, and creatives all over the country to tell the unchanging gospel story in fresh ways. I have surrounded myself with the most talented and dedicated artists I can find. Most of them have been what sociologists call millennials.
Millennials are an interesting bunch. Considering they currently make up 25% of the American population, it’s no wonder people are paying attention. What I love about millenials is that, more than those before them, want their life to matter in substantive ways; to have a clear purpose and make a difference. They sacrifice money and power to achieve their goals faster than their predecessors. That said, one discipline matters more than all the rest in that pursuit of that kind of clarifying purpose (whether you grew up watching Boy Meets World or not). If you want to live a life of calling, and not just wander around, moving from compulsion to compulsion, you must learn and practice silence and solitude.
Silence and solitude are the foundational disciplines that provide spiritual and psychological space for all other disciplines. They are the way by which we face our real selves and enter into the presence of God. The primary means by which you will determine your calling and avoid compulsion, is in SILENCE AND SOLITUDE.
“If you want to live a life of clear calling, and not just wander around, moving from compulsion to compulsion, you must learn and practice silence and solitude.”
Much of what I’ll share in this three part series is informed and guided by spending time with two brilliant men, Jim Cofield and Rich Plass. These two men are pastors of pastors, who work full time in soul care, counseling, writing, and helping leaders around the country be healthy. They wrote the book “The Relational Soul”, and if you want to stay in ministry a long time and be wise beyond your years, read every word of that book.
WHAT IS SILENCE AND SOLITUDE?
Alright, so how are we defining this discipline? Here’s what I use to frame it up:
Silence and solitude is the act of freeing ourselves from the distraction of people and tasks and words so as to give ourselves completely to God alone with all of our being.
Solitude is an intentionally alone place, not to hide but to listen.
… it is Jesus in the solitary place (Mark 1:35)
… it is Elijah at Mt. Horeb
… it is John on the Island of Patmos, shunned by his own community
… it is Paul imprisoned wondering what to do next
Silence is where you find the real you.
Solitude distances us from the fake version of us we have made for others.
…a place where we put down our curated and filtered Instagram lives,
….a place where we are more honest before God without having to perform
…..a place where we see that our identity is a gift and not earned.
This is true of everyone, but especially those in public ministry, we’re often on display, and we become adaptive to what others expect even though that may not always be the true us. In solitude, God does deep work without any pretense of
being something other than our true selves. In solitude you ask God to be
merciful and show you the REAL condition of your soul.
You are not the fringe.
Without solitude we mistake the fringe for the center and think “that’s the real me!” We become addicted to maintaining that fringe and that image. It’s impossible to slow down in your life if you are constantly servicing that fringe version of yourself. Keeping the fringe from falling apart is an insanely tiring and consuming activity.
Silence isn’t just environmental.
it’s NOT just a condition outside of me … it’s state of my soul before God. Silence frees me from having to say something. Silence intensifies the solitude. They go hand in hand.
“Solitude doesn’t make God love you more, but it might let you see more of God’s love.”
Silence and Solitude are not…
They aren’t just daydreaming or simply emptying the mind. They aren’t an attempt to become more spiritual or the same as meeting God, but certainly an environment to do so. Solitude doesn’t make God love you more, but it might let you see more of God’s love.
Next week, we’ll look at why silence and solitude are very difficult for most of us. Three specific challenges keep us from this rhythm and knowing what they are makes a huge difference. Read part two, and have the courage to step into the silence and hear what God’s love and mercy sound like.
I recently spoke at Northwest University on this topic within a series of Ted-talk style sessions around the spiritual disciplines. You can listen here (begins around 45:00). Practical tips on how to do solitude can be found here.