Last week, I provided a brief introduction to the disciplines of silence and solitude. This week we'll continue building on that idea, and I'll unpack a bit of why this element of Christian discipleship is generally neglected if not completely forgone.
So why is it so difficult to get time away? Why do we only typically think to get alone with Jesus in silence when life runs us down completely? Three reasons drive our avoidance of silence and solitude, and they are all powerful deterrents from what brings us life.
WHY IS IT HARD?
We are addicted to noise, on the outside and the inside. Millennials touch their phones 43 times a day on average. We don’t like to be left alone with our thoughts. The human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to about 8 seconds currently. (Interesting to think about what has happened culturally since in 2000...)
Compulsion is every time you choose something urgent over something important. It’s when you spend energy appearing a certain way, instead of being a certain person. Compulsion is the internal “oughts and shoulds", the feelings of never enough. It’s one more hour of video games, one more unnecessary online purchase, one more hook up. Our busyness is a way to avoid ourselves, God and others. We make endless lists, spinning on what we’ll do next. Always moving, never resting.
We get confused about our own limitations (namely that we can’t hold the pace most of us try to keep), and confusion about God’s disposition towards us. God is not an old bitter friend, waiting to light you up with his anger and list of wrongdoings when you finally make time to reconnect. He’s not sitting arms-crossed just waiting to let you have it. He loves you, not a future version of you, YOU. NOW. No matter how long it’s been. And so our distractions, and compulsions, and confusions lead us to have tired souls.
Tired souls look like this:
-Inner restlessness, underlying anxiety, or vague nervousness
-inner irritability and agitation
-we can’t sit and be quiet
-relationally detached and numb
-immersed in fantasy world, dreaming of escape, or taking sexual risks
-people become tedious
-lack of enthusiasm for life/ministry/devotions
-we become depressed / hopeless
-angry, defensive, and argumentative
-decision-making feels impossible and clouded
WHY IS IT WORTH IT?
With regular silence and solitude the soul becomes refreshed and recalibrated. We begin to live out the day the way the Father intended. This can not be overstated. Below is a brief list of what I have seen happen after regular silence and solitude:
-Freedom from compulsion
-Interior space which is able to hold other spiritual disciplines
-Moving away from constantly seeing your life in reference to how others see you
-Increased clarity on the desires of your heart
-Becoming more adept at listening to and recognizing the voice of God
-Experience the supernatural and mystical side of our faith
Now, you can do silence and solitude in an hour, or a whole weekend, but
the basic elements are the same. Next week, I'll unpack the four basic parts.
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.