Last Friday I went out on a date and it was so refreshing. We sat in my hammock out in the warm, sunny woods alongside Hamlin Lake, enjoying the steady breeze, talking, and just hanging out (get the pun?). The funny thing is, if anyone had walked by, they would’ve thought I was hammocking by myself, because they couldn’t see that my date was with God. Judge me if you want, but if you don’t think a date with God is legit, you’re obviously missing out.
The week before had just been my first week of a new job and I was quite wound up. I was a little stressed and anxious and had been running around like absolute crazy helping my family pack up for a vacation that week. Finally sitting down, I told God all about it. It was great. I didn’t have to put on a face to pretend it was all okay. But I also didn’t have to reassure God that I was not intending to complain. He already knew. I could admit everything and know that he still loves me–like crazy. Unlike looking to a human relationship for satisfaction, I also knew that everything I put into this relationship really could satisfy me. One hundred percent guaranteed.
As I talked to God, he talked to me. It wasn’t verbal, but I could definitely sense his presence in the creation all around me. Who created the beautiful sunshine? The bright green leaves? The warm weather? The breeze? Our time together also gave me a chance to remember all the things I know but forget in the business of life: God is in control no matter what; I have no need to worry, he loves me so much he’s delighted to hang out–no matter where or how, I’m so blessed to have the job I have, even if I don’t love it every moment.
My last blog post spoke of the importance of people. Here I’d like to address the importance of solitude and silence before God. In a raffle last semester I won a book titled, “The Celebration of Discipline.” Woohoo! Right? Admittedly the book is a little dry, but still has some really good points. The author, Richard Foster, explains that when we never take time to be silent, we miss out on hearing from God: “The preacher is such a bore. The hymn singing is too weak. The worship service is too dull. We may begin to look around for another church or a new experience to give us ‘spiritual goose bumps.’ This is a serious mistake…rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait.” Have you ever considered that your spiritual walk may feel so boring and like a chore simply because you’re completely ignoring a passionate conversation that God wants to have with you?
God rarely, in my experience, speaks verbally. But there are so many times when he’s spoken to me through my surroundings, other people, and my thoughts. I forget about my blessings, I forget about other people, and I forget the joys of growing in a relationship with God when I never take the time to be silent.
Therefore, to approach this goal of giving God some silent alone time to listen to him, I have some achievable ambitions:
- I am a HUGE fan of music. When I have access to music and am working on an activity that allows me to, I’m listening to music about 90% of the time (my family can attest!). Most of the time it’s worship music, too. But I’ve come to realize that, even if it is a good message, that doesn’t mean there can’t be something better. Tyler Joseph, leading singer in the band 21 Pilots, wrote a song titled “Car Radio” after someone stole his car radio. In his commentary about the song, he stated, “It was interesting to see how when I removed the distraction of music from my life in my car, where my brain would go…thoughts that would go through my mind… I still encourage people to take some time to just sit in silence every once in a while. A lot of things can come out…a lot of things that need to come out.” For a week, I’m going to try not turning on the music on my commute to and from work. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe something will.
- Lying in bed at night can be a perfect time to reflect on what happened during the day and to reset your attitude. Similarly, the morning is a great time to consciously pick your outlook for the day. My goal, then is to, for just one week for starters, not be on my phone or computer for half an hour before bed and half an hour after I wake up. That will give me a little time to have a conversation with God before I converse via text with my friends.
- A third option, is to simply take prayers before meals seriously. How quick we are to state, “Thanks God, for the food and for my family. Amen.” But, while God appreciates the short prayers, they are often spoken thoughtlessly. Take a moment to transform a thoughtless process into a genuine conversation with the God of the universe.
These activities provide a perfect time for prayer–a most powerful, overlooked spiritual discipline. How do you expect God to work in your life if you aren’t speaking to him? Just talk. Seriously, he wants to be in a relationship with you and talking is a great way to kick that off!
Or read your Bible! This is another spiritual discipline which is completely thrown aside so often. But we Christians base our faith off of this book, shouldn’t we be actively digging into it?
If both of these suggestions intimidate you, start with something as absolutely approachable as using this time to reflect. At school, a group of us would meet for dinner on Fridays and go over highlights and lowlights of the week. So often when trying to find highlights and lowlights, we would state, “Geez, I don’t really remember what happened this week!” My friend mentioned that this was all the more reason to intentionally reflect. You only have one life; you might as well be aware of what you’re doing in it! When I reflect, it reminds me of how blessed I am, which leads to my praising God.
In closing, I want to warn that silence and solitude is a discipline and, like everything else in life, it takes effort (cliche, but true!). In order to practice what I preach, today I turned off the music for an hour while I worked out by myself and took at shower. I think it’s a sign I need more focus when I find myself singing in place of the music or pretending to be a Spanish-speaking fitness trainer…or both (I have a pretty good imagination…).