– Dana Smith, Women’s Equipping Coordinator for Wellspring Group
Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing. To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his. We learn we have a soul, that God is here, that this world is “my Father’s world.
– Dallas Willard (from the intro to Invitation to Solitude & Silence by Ruth Haley Barton)
“The mystery of God”
Seeking God through solitude and silence seems to have ushered me into a place of encountering the Mystery of God—a place where I lay out the issues of my heart to God alone and become vulnerable to him for whatever happens next. Whatever happens next may not be what I wanted or expected, but with hindsight over time I begin to see that, indeed, “all things have been working out for my good” (Romans 8:28). Making time to reflect in the presence of God has allowed me to see that God has been more interested in me and the development of my heart than in “magically” responding to my list of wishes and wants. There have been times when he has surprised me by throwing my agenda out the window and turning me in an entirely new direction altogether.
Seeking God through solitude and silence seems to have ushered me into a place of encountering the Mystery of God.
This type of unexpected redirection happened on a weeklong personal retreat a couple of months after my divorce in 2012. My work background is as an accountant, and after divorcing I resigned from my job at the time, intending to take several months off to begin putting my life back together and applying for another accounting position. As a hobby, I had already developed an enjoyment of noticing the wonderful variety of wildflowers while hiking in the woods. A couple of days into this retreat I was looking through a wildflower book I had purchased, when suddenly I “heard” the voice of the Lord as clearly as I ever had, saying: “You’re looking at it!” I was quite stunned and had no idea what this meant, nor that a process of nurturing and building my heart anew was about to begin.
“Nurture in nature”
With the encouragement and support of my first Battle teammates, I embarked on a journey to become a volunteer naturalist and see where it would take me. Awe and wonder flooded my heart as I studied and engaged in work projects out in nature. In the end, this was not about becoming a naturalist—it was about experiencing the love of God in my heart like never before. It was as if all of my senses came alive!
Day after day for two years, as I headed out to work at a nature park or a municipal park, or into the woods to hike alone, I entered into a sense of freedom and spaciousness. The trees, streams, rocks, birds, wild turkey, deer, chipmunks, snakes, sunrises and sunsets, etc., all became my companions in adventure—and especially wildflowers. I took my camera with macro setting and photographed every wildflower I saw. I would spend hours magnifying them on my computer, with unceasing amazement at the intricate beauty displayed, hidden from the unaided eye. What a beautiful world! What an awesome God! As season moved into next season, I was thrilled to find new wildflowers to photograph, almost daily. When not on work projects or at seminars or attending naturalist classes, I was alone in the woods with God.
I maintained a constant awareness of him, discussing my experiences with him, growing in my love for him. And the deep gratitude I felt! When guilt would creep in to rob me of all this, he was quick to knock it down. This was for me. I needed it more than I could understand. I was being changed. I was being nurtured. I was being loved.
Slowly, things like trust and rest and peace began showing up more in my inner self. I began paying less attention to things that drive me, and more attention to those that draw me. And it began after my life had been drastically altered by divorce, propelling me to take “time away” in order to simply be with the Lord in solitude and silence.
If something I’ve written has caught your attention, what might your own life experience be saying to you? Has the path you’re on taken you to an unexpected dead end, as you stand looking over at an alternative that somehow tugs at your heart, though it’s uncertain where it will lead you? Is that “tug”—an undeniable spark of life—greater than the fear that accompanies it? What will you choose? Suppress the desire? Or explore it with God and see if it holds an invitation from him to become more of who he uniquely made you to be? Ask him if taking some extensive time away to lay out the issues of your heart before him is what He has in mind for you—for whatever comes next!
God’s basic will for your life is not what you do or where you live or whether you marry or how much you make—it’s who you become.
– John Ortberg, from All the Places to Go
One Step Further:
- How would you rate the quality of your time alone with the Lord?
- Take a moment to ponder the idea of taking a significant amount of time to spend in solitude and silence before the Trinity. What is happening inside you?
- What might God be inviting you into?
Are you intrigued by the idea of getting away for a few days to “be still before the Lord”?
Have you considered a Silent Retreat?
” This retreat has been life-altering. The intense presence of God revealed through His words, His creation, and His people has been beautiful and freeing. To hear His voice of love and affirmation about who He says I am gives me the boldness to walk fully surrendered to His calling on my life.”