“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16
What does this practice look like in our modern context?
Last summer I spent a week of training for my spiritual director certificate at the Interfaith Institute in Berkeley, CA. Throughout the week, my cohort explored the practice of deeply listening to one another through a variety of different activities. We shared stories. We worked with images. And we even went on solitary walks. Now, eight months later, the memories of this experience are some I still treasure dearly.
And, there’s one gem I gained from our Hindu instructor I’ve thought a lot about this Lent. She said, “If you want to listen to God, then you need to limit media you are taking in.” Or in other words she offered: “If you want to be close to the Divine, ask yourself, why are you watching so much tv or listening to so much of the radio or watching movies on Netflix online?” Her words were practical and to the point.
I love media like most of you. Sometimes I think my computer is attached to my body. Sometimes I find myself sad when I don’t have a day to catch up on the recorded shows on my DVR box and just veg out. Sometimes the silence of driving in the car with the radio is deafening. My generation loves noise.
But then there are moments when I truly turn it all off and I’m so glad I did.
On Sunday night, Kevin and I were cooking in our Oklahoma apartment’s kitchen. The counter space is limited and we were side by side. He was chopping fruit. I was baking bread. We were preparing to host breakfast the next morning for the country directors from Feed The Children in town for the week.
We had both previously commented how excited we were about watching the Oscars. Being movie buffs, we couldn’t wait to see who won what and how funny (or not) the jokes were. But then a strange thing happened. We came home from the grocery store and we didn’t turn the tv on.
I don’t know how, but we forgot about the Oscars.
We unloaded the car, cooked in silence for a while and then began to talk to each other– sharing details about our weeks that we would have missed if we didn’t take this time of pause. I learned more about some of Kevin’s deep burdens and he learned more about mine.
I think that listening to God is like this. I think this is what Jesus was modeling for us when he went to the lonely places and prayed.
Sure, we all might have intentions about what we are “doing” this Lent to grow in our faith– no sweets, no soda, exercising more or even drinking more water, but what good are these things if we don’t allow the slower pace of life to help us listen?
Listening to what we are to do next in our daily rhythms . . .
Listening to what our primary relationships need most from us . . .
Listening to what we can only hear if we turn our tvs and computers off . . .
In reading through the gospels, it seems to me that as much as Jesus was “on” and busy, he was always looking for a retreat, quiet and silence. Thank goodness that it is this season, that reminds us every year that the most important thing we can all do is unplug and listen!