Silence and Solitude

By Jill Tatge-Kemper

Silence and Solitude are Spiritual Disciplines I have practiced with varying degrees of commitment throughout my Christian life. Since we are all home now, maybe it's the perfect time to look a little more closely at these practices.

As a natural introvert, I assumed that not only would this practice be easy for me, but I probably already did it without even trying. Silence seemed pretty straight forward: don't talk. Easy peasy. Solitude, also easy: be alone. This I like. Clearly I already knew what I was doing. Then I started to actually study what the Spiritual Discipline of Silence and Solitude was and realized how I was misguided.

Silence is not simply not talking. When was the last time you were truly silent? I often have music playing or let the TV stay on for background noise. I may not be talking, but by no means am I practicing Silence.

Solitude is not simply being alone. When you're driving to work (when we could), taking a shower, or scrolling through Facebook, you're not practicing Solitude even though you are by yourself. The difference is, when practicing Silence and Solitude, you are building a relationship with God.

Solitude is being alone WITH God.

Silence is LISTENING to God.

Let us look to Jesus as our example of how to practice. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. I don't really think we need to go that far! But Jesus also utilized this practice in more manageable ways. Tucked neatly between the miracles of Jesus feeding the crowds and walking on water is this verse:

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Matthew 14:23

Jesus wasn't on this mountainside for days on end, it was actually a short period of time. He was a busy man, but still found time to be with God. He also didn't go to a temple or some particularly holy place.

Sometimes we can have the idea in our head that God lives at church, so the only place to be with God is there on a Sunday morning. The reality is that God is ALWAYS with us, no matter where that may be. Including with us in our homes right now.

How you go about spending time with God in Solitude and listening to God in Silence is really up to you. I find it particularly relaxing to be outside. Going for a slow, deliberate walk, even just around my yard, I can find the time for Silence and Solitude. Sitting on my patio is another way I can relax and be with God. You may have a favorite chair or room in your house. Wherever it is you feel relaxed is a good place to be when trying this practice.

I always need to say a prayer of surrender at the beginning or else I spend my time making a list of what I need to do next. Praying something as simple as “God, please quiet my mind and open my heart to You” can help to center me. Typically I also read a favorite Bible verse or Psalm to help my mind from racing so I can begin to listen.

I make sure that I'm not in a rush to go somewhere or do something else. It really is a time of deliberately slowing down. However, since I'm human, my mind often starts to wander. If I catch myself thinking about what chores I should be doing or the movie I watched last night, I simply go back to the Bible verse or say another prayer to help me come back into the present moment. There are plenty of days I need to do this more than once!

Don't get angry or frustrated. This is a practice and that means you actually need to practice doing it. You may want to try for 5 minutes the first time and gradually add more time as you start to learn ways that work best for you.

When I'm able to spend even a few minutes truly being present with God, I feel so blessed and rejuvenated. Some people take notes or journal after this practice as a way to look back and see how God was speaking to them.

I hope this inspires you to try the practice of Silence and Solitude for yourself.

Picture credit and thanks to Christopher Sardegna.

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