Over the past several months, I found myself with more quiet and uninterrupted time than I’ve ever experienced before in my life. My pastoral Sabbatical has gone on for more months that I would have planned in the beginning.
By March, the temptation was to “just do something.” To fill the space with more books to read, more coffees to have with new friends and old friends alike, and more trips to take. Maybe start or learn a new hobby? Maybe get a part-time job just for the fun of it? More of something to fill the void of time that used to be offered to the church.
Sure there were things to do like finish my book manuscript which would fulfill my commitment to the Louisville institute, events to attend with Kevin for Feed The Children, and the usual of keeping up with house chores (in two cities nonetheless) and the never-ending pile of mail that always seems to need attention on my desk.
But, still even with all of this “doing” there was plenty of silence left. Still there was quiet. Still even with all of the coffee dates and lunches I could muster energy up to attend, there has been just me. Alone. In quiet. Making friends with this state of being called solitude.
There have been days when I’ve loved it, savoring every minute.
There have been days I counted the minutes until I could go to bed at night or Kevin came home from work.
There have been days when all I wanted was a friend to call and rescue me from the void that is life in my living room alone.
But the silent beat has gone on.
And this is what I’ve learned: silence, even as much as we all fight it, is not going to kill us. Nope. It hasn’t killed me. Well sometimes it might have felt like it would, but it didn’t. And I don’t think it will.
Silence has been God’s great transformational gift that my busybody soul has needed.
One of the authors I read in seminary but have become fascinated with again the past couple of months is Roberta Bondi. I’ve loved reading her again because of her focus the desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century who retreated to find solitude. And Bondi writes about what made them tick, how they related to their fellow silent pilgrims, and most of all what they learned about prayer as a result.
As I’ve stuck close to her book, To Pray and To Love again, I’ve been reminded that the Spirit often does the best work in us when we surrender to the quiet.
Bondi makes a case for such by saying that when the distractions of our lives are stripped away we have no one or no thing to blame for our laziness, our moodiness, our impulses, or our addictions than the brokeness that is within us. In solitude we realize that life is not about our jobs, our families or even our own ambitions for the future.
Rather, life is about us and God. Life is about all of life flowing out of God’s great love for us. Life is dance card full of great opportunities designed just for us to soar.
But only in silence would we know this.
Only in silence would we have eyes to see these things.
And, only when we say no to the temptation of adding just one more thing to our plate do we make room for God.
Life filled with God is worth fighting for even as the hours of silence continue on. At least for now.