Blog 365 · Whispers of Faith

The Art of Solitude and Silence

The last two weeks of July came to a screeching halt for me. Suddenly I no longer had multiple appointments, minutely scheduled days, and mounds of grading to do. I didn’t have to be up at 5am every day, monitor multiple children, plan lessons or squeeze in life around teaching. I still had my daily to-do list, but there certainly weren’t deadlines for most of it.

And I was suddenly not around dozens of people daily.

I was thrust into – silence.

And it was unexpectedly harder than I thought it would be.

I’ve always defined myself as an ambivert – a functional extrovert – an introverted extrovert – whatever term you want to use to describe someone who enjoys being with people – having people over – being in groups with people she knows well – but definitely needs her alone time to reflect and recharge. And it’s not hard to love the silence of my evenings when I’m surrounded by 50+ voices all day, most of them saying my name or trying to get my attention.

But daily silence – and daily solitude? Now that got to be a little overwhelming. Don’t misunderstand – I was certainly seeing people and talking to them throughout those weeks – talking to family members on the phone, cleaning my classroom with my mom, going to college group, getting together with friends here and there. But my loosely structured days with just myself to confer with as I woke up and went to bed was a new challenge.

And in the midst of it, God had to teach my heart a thing or two about the art of solitude – and how, if it’s handled correctly, it can be a tool to deepen my relationship with Him.

The silence is a platform for God to speak … but am I too uncomfortable with it to hear Him? Am I too ready to fill the silence with distractions so quickly that I never wait long enough to hear God’s truth?

I had to ask myself – what do I need more – the silence and God filling it with Himself or the noise and distractions of the world filling my heart with discontent?

It’s all too easy when we feel like the silence is stretching on too long to grasp for connections to people – through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, texting – whatever we can cling to in order to not feel alone or ignored. But those are all false forms of connections. We’re actually clinging to a screen whereupon other people have left bits of their life, but aren’t currently interacting with us.

On the contrary, God’s Word is living and active. He is always interacting with us every time we read it. Every time we lift up a prayer to Him, He is actively listening and doing a work in our heart to draw us closer to Him.

But the process is slow and subtle. Sometimes I don’t see change instantly happening. Sometimes I still just want to hear an actual voice of another person. And I turn too quickly away from the growth process that can happen in the solitude and silence.

Solitude means not just “being alone,” but “the absence of human activity” – the intentional choosing of what to do with your aloneness. I can choose to be panicky and lonely and desperate, and turn to distractions and artificial means of comfort.

OR I can choose to submit those feelings to Christ and recognize that in Him I am never truly alone. He is always with me – He is forever the source of joy in a world of pretend happiness. I can choose to study His word, journal my anxious thoughts, and do something productive with my time to take my mind off of myself.

Silence means I don’t always have to turn the music on, and I don’t always need to run to Netflix just to hear the sound of people talking. Instead I can simply be okay with the absence of noise, recognizing that this allows me greater focus in my prayers. I can discipline my mind to stop the noisy thoughts and turn them to God instead of just assuming that there’s nothing I can do about it.

I have to admit, the start of getting ready for school again has filled me with a great sense of relief as it has given my mind something to focus on and my days a productive, satisfying amount of busy again. I think God designed us to have that satisfying amount of productivity through our work, and I’m grateful that in this particular line of teaching, I have so much to creatively focus on.

But I don’t want to forget the summer days of solitude behind me and the lesson that was forged into my soul. I know, even looking back now, that my relationship with Christ was strengthened and that He taught me many beautiful things that couldn’t have been discovered without the quiet. The time was also good for me physically and mentally to simply slow down and not be overwhelmed with so much.

Is that to say I’m now the expert on the art of practicing solitude and maximizing silence? Absolutely not! I’m learning it new every day – and I often still struggle with it.

But I hope that in the writing down of the lesson, I will be reminded of it when my heart is tempted to run to other pleasures instead of God in the midst of the silence.

And I must constantly be asking myself:

Which will I choose today – the discipline of listening or the disobedience of ignoring?

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