A word is worth one coin. Silence is worth two.—The Talmud
Recently I spent a day out on a ranch owned by our aunt and uncle. I was virtually alone for 24 hours and sought solitary time with God, peace from the frenetic pace of my daily life at home and work. I spent my time in solitude, quietness and reflection, sitting by a lake, under an oak tree, journaling. It was a sorely needed time of recharging that I wish could have been longer. Even my time of refreshing was, sadly, curbed by the maddening pace of daily obligations to be somewhere and do something.
Of the many, many truths that the ancients knew but which we moderns have lost, I think that seeking time to be alone, still and silent in order to be refreshed and recharged is one of the most valuable relics lost. “Relic” is the right word. To get away for time of solitude would be considered an oddity, an artifact, in today’s world. In fact I would say that we in some ways find it unnerving to be alone, to be still and to be silent. We have become so accustomed to a frenzied lifestyle that we would avoid them at all cost.
To be alone: Certainly there is comfort and reassurance to be in the company of ones we love. But sometimes we need to be alone with our thoughts, alone with God, able to look deep within and be introspective. We need the depth of communication with God and our own inner person that can come only from solitude. Our time with others will be enhanced and strengthened by our time alone.
To be still: In order to hear more clearly the voice of the Lord, to be able to focus on His presence, we have to stop rushing around and being hyper active. Can we hear God when we are in motion? Yes, absolutely, just as we can carry on a conversation with a friend as we walk down the street or move about the home doing household duties. But think of how rewarding conversations with friends and family are when we stop, sit and look one another in the eye and communicate transparently. To do that, we must sit still. So it is with God. We can talk with and hear from God when we are in motion, but we can go deep when we are still before His presence.
To be silent: Oh, my, where do I start here? We talk too much. We natter and chatter. Our conversations are merely stream of consciousness thought made audible. Furthermore, thanks to the electronic age, we cannot ride in the car without the radio or mp3 player on, nor can we be home without the TV on. To these things I say: turn them off. Talk less, listen more. Turn off the stream of consciousness babbling, turn off the radio and TV for a change, and drink in the silence. God has to compete for our attention with these noises. Small wonder we don’t think we can hear from Him.
The truth is that we are afraid to be alone, still and silent. We are so accustomed to hyperactivity that we don’t know what to do with ourselves otherwise.When I was alone at the ranch I wrote my impressions in a journal and I will share here some of the things I wrote: Get apart from other people for a season and be alone with God. Dwell in His presence and drink it in. Be refreshed. Worship. Become aware of His activity in the common ways of life around you. Yet also be aware of His stillness.
In being still God can “catch up” to us. We are like a hyperactive child. God is like a daddy who wants us to sit still on his lap so he can read to us from a story book, but we won’t be still. We squirm off his lap and want to run around and play with our toys. And we fill our lives with noise because we cannot stand quiet.
But when we are alone with God…and still…and silent…God can be heard. And His word for us refreshes, rebuilds and strengthens us for what lies ahead in our life. In our stillness we can hear the gentle whisper of God which gets drowned out by the daily cacophony of our frantic lives.
Remember Elijah, who did not hear the voice of the Lord in the earthquake, nor in the roaring wind, but heard Him in the still small voice that whispered to him in the wilderness. When he heard Him, Elijah covered his face with his head scarf, in awe and worship because he knew suddenly that he was in the quiet yet mighty presence of the Living God.
Certainly we cannot completely retreat from the world and in fact to do so risks becoming self-absorbed and no good to anyone or anything. We have to live in community. We have to be productive and responsible. And we have those in our lives who are dependent upon us for help with their needs which we cannot neglect. Times of solitude and silence are meant to be an oasis in the midst of restlessness and noise, a time of refreshing and recharging. We are better and more effective in community from our times of aloneness.
Then, like Elijah, like Moses, like Paul, like the Son of God Himself, leaders who changed the world yet sought strength in these disciplines, the quiet but powerful voice of God can restore our souls.