My stack from the library makes feel very spiritual and intelligent. I look at the pile and think, “Wow. What impressive books.” I just want you to know the state of my heart before we get much further.
But I’ve only read one of them and the due date is this Friday. I just finished Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Hailey Barton. I recommend it. I took pages of notes like a diligent scholar. There’s only one problem, this book isn’t meant to be a study. It’s meant to be a practice. In three weeks of studying about silence, solitude, and simply resting in God’s presence, I have yet to actually attempt even five minutes of silence and solitude. I have yet to receive the invitation. I’ve tried writing it on my to do list, but my toddler seems to wake just as I’m settling into stillness. Her nap time feels like the only time I can really accomplish, and so being still just feels so… unproductive.
Of course I realize that this post is in direct opposition to the post I wrote last week. I’m super great at telling others to be still and I am ALWAYS ready to journal and read… but those are all tasks. I can even turn prayer into a task.
The more I’ve wrestled with the need for silence and solitude, the more I have to realize how frightening the thought of NOTHING actually is. I want control. I need agendas. I long to feel accomplished and productive.
Barton gives wonderful insight throughout the book, normalizing my fears and helping me realize that this condition of striving is one shared by many of us.
“But silence is not always as easy as it sounds. At least that has been my experience. What sounds like an inspired idea in a spiritual director’s office is actually very difficult for those of us who have been moving so fast for so long… how surprising (and humbling!) to find that something so seemingly simple and doable can be so difficult! For the first year or so it seemed like all I did was struggle to make it to the ten-minute mark, all the while noticing the noisiness inside my own head, the pull of distractions, the resistance I felt to this new and challenging practice. Somehow during those moments the need to do laundry seemed more urgent, to-do lists began to compile themselves effortlessly in my head, people and situations I hadn’t thought of for years present themselves unbidden, emotions and questions I usually didn’t allow myself to acknowledge took me totally by surprise, The spirit of cynicism whispered, ‘How pointless is this? We’re not getting anything done here!'” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)
I do appreciate some silence in my life. I awake most mornings to have coffee, prayer, and time in the Word. I treasure the quiet, the alone time, the chance to indulge and read. But I’m almost always researching, preparing, and writing down verses to text and send to others. Rarely do I let God speak directly to me. I set and keep the agenda for our meetings and I don’t allow for changes. Obviously I realize that I can’t continue in this pattern and hope for real change, growth or rest. There’s a part of me that desperately wants that kind of intimacy with the Lord, and the rest of me is scared. Barton echoes and validates that fear.
“The struggle into solitude is real because the danger is real – the danger of living the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality of our condition.” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)
Yes. I fear silence because I know the truth of my condition. I am not enough. I cannot do enough. I will fail as mother, wife, and friend – **BUT the gospel** tells me I am more loved and accepted than I ever dreamed possible. That grace and level of trust should silence those fears and beckon me toward solitude with my Savior. “The gospel destroys fearfulness because it tells us that nothing we do will exhaust God’s love for us.” (Timothy Keller)
“When we sit quietly in God’s presence, the sediment that is swirling in our souls begins to settle. We don’t have to do anything but show up and trust the spiritual law of gravity that says, ‘Be still, and the knowing will come.'” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)
Be still, and the knowing will come.
This was my kitchen 45 minutes ago.
It currently looks exactly the same. It’s still a disaster and the minutes of nap time are ticking down.
But my spirit feels a bit better. I walked outside, sat on the patio and let myself be quiet. “Ginger, what are you doing here?” I simply shared how I felt with the Lord and then sat for almost 15 minutes. My mind wandered here and there, but I would try returning to that question. It was good.
I’m going to commit to being still every day until the With Joy Retreat – and beyond then. I’m excited to share what God is teaching me, where I fail at this, and how God’s grace covers my failures.
Registration for our 2015 BE Retreat is open for an extended period! Spots are limited, but I hope you will consider joining us as we walk out what this idea of being still and being known by a Gracious God. Follow this link for information and registration: www.withjoyretreats.com
P.S. If finances are keeping you from attending, please contact me!
**If I ever actually were to get a tattoo, it would either be a tiny anchor (Hebrews 6:19 reference) or script on my wrist saying BUT THE GOSPEL. That phrase wins everything.**