Last night we explored the spiritual habit of solitude and silence.
It’s not a discipline that’s especially popular in twenty-first century London. We live busy lives, constantly filled with background noise and endless interruptions. And even when we do find ourselves on our own, we usually fill those solitary moments with anything we can to avoid experiencing complete solitude and silence.
Our use of language makes clear we actually view both these things as punishments. When prisoners have behaved especially badly they are placed in solitary confinement. And when someone has upset us we give them the silent treatment.
Yet Jesus frequently sought out solitude and silence; it was clearly an important means for him to remain close to his Father. Before making decisions about who to appoint as his disciples, frequently early in the morning after a busy day of teaching or healing, after hearing about the death of his cousin John the Baptist, and seemingly at regular intervals during his ministry, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places.
One thing we need to do if we are to experience more solitude and silence is learn to slow down. Life in a busy city is now lived at a faster pace than at any time in human history. And that hurry makes it harder to slow down, to listen, and to hear the voice of God.
Last night we took time to slow down through periods of silence, punctuated by someone reading passages from Richard Foster’s classic book Celebration of Discipline. Why not try it for yourself…
There is an old proverb to the effect that “all those who open their mouths, close their eyes!” The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear. Control rather than no noise is the key to silence. James saw clearly that the person who could control his tongue is perfect (James 3:1-12). (p. 98)
One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out. (p. 101)
The fruit of solitude is increased sensitivity and compassion for others. There comes a new freedom to be with people. There is new attentiveness to their needs, new responsiveness to their hurts. (p. 108)