“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us” (Teresa of Ávila).
I love hiking the trails at Radnor Lake State Park. I love how I can travel less than 30 minutes from where I live and enter a completely different world where nature has full sway and the noises of civilization seem a million miles away.
Often I feel as though silence is the best kind of language for such a place. Words seem to profane such a sacred place, so I try to talk less and listen more.
I’m trying to be more attentive to my surroundings when I’m on one of the trails. I’m still not very good at taking in everything, but I’m learning more and more how to see rather than just look.
That’s the key to life. Sometimes, what you need is to be silent and still. You need to step away from the hurried rat-race and the voices telling you, “Faster! Faster! More! More!”
I think the best places to do that are the places that are closest to the original Garden of Eden, places with the least amount of man-made noise and pollution and the most nature.
Be still. Be quiet. And listen. Just as Elijah had to strain his ears to hear the still small voice of God, so we sometimes need to be silent and still to hear God speaking.
God is still speaking.
More than ever, it seems there is so much upheaval and turmoil in the world. I find that some days there is more sadness than one can bear.
Today, I’m thinking about a pastor that I greatly admire and respect who recently resigned from his pastorship of 14 years, confessing that he was running on empty, burned out, and broken.
I’m also thinking of a friend of mine who was involved in a horrific head-on car accident that has left him in the ICU with multiple broken bones and internal bleeding.
If you let it, the sadness and pain can be overwhelming. The frenetic pace of the world can be exhausting with no rest in sight.
That’s why there needs to be a place of sanctuary in your life.
It doesn’t have to be a physical location. It can be a place in your mind where you go to be reminded that your true identity is not what you do, where you live, how you dress, or how much money you make. It’s the name Jesus has given you and the benedictions He is speaking over you.
I read recently that we need to believe the truth about ourselves, no matter how beautiful it is. Our great worth comes in bearing the image of God and being the Beloved ones of our Abba Father, who was not willing that we should perish, but that we should have eternal life.
Sin continues to distort our perception of our identity. There continues to be rampant evil and unnecessary suffering in the world. The tyranny of the urgent continues to distract and deter us from greater works that will echo long after we’re gone.
That’s why it’s necessary to find a place of solitude where we can hear the voice of the Eternal who existed long before the original sin and will be long after evil and suffering have ceased to be.
When was the last time you paused and stood absolutely still and silent for one minute? When was the last time you went to a place of solitude and did nothing more than listen to the quiet? I walked my favorite trail at Radnor Lake State Park again today. Even after so many times, it still feels like I’m leaving Middle Tennessee for Middle Earth. I feel like I could be Frodo Baggins out for a hike in the Shire. When I stood still, I could hear nature all around me. Leaves rustling, birds singing, wind humming. Even myself thinking. I think God speaks loudest to me in the quiet. When I’m still and my brain isn’t racing with 9,956 tabs open at the same time. Like He did with Elijah, God often chooses to speak through a still, small voice that won’t compete with all the noise and clamor around us. I can hear that Voice when I’m at Radnor Lake and when I’m sitting in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church or when I’m laying in bed late at night. I confess I’m still not very good at listening. I’m still too impatient and easily distracted. If I try to be still, immediately I think of something I need to do or a note I need to write. Complete stillness is so unnatural for me. For all of us.
I need to get out more. And by out, I mean to these quiet places with no flashing neon lights or constant noise. Sometimes I think I could be like Mr. Thoreau and find myself a Walden Pond to visit for a while. Yeah, that’d be nice.
“In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).
Henri Nouwen wrote that every single person ever born deals with aloneness, because every single one of us is unique and no one else will ever have our exact problems and issues and hang-ups and phobias.
He said we can either see our aloneness as a wound and thus turn it into loneliness or view it as a gift, where it becomes solitude. In solitude is where we can learn to be still and quiet and know that in truth, we are never really alone. God is with us.
Solitude makes us better people, better neighbors, better friends, better spouses, better lovers, and better disciples. We’re not clinging to each other out of a desparate need to not be lonely, but because we are finally comfortable with who we are in the times when we are alone with no noise to drown out our own thoughts.
That is my own wording of what I’ve been reading in The Only Necessary Thing, a compilation of Nouwen’s thoughts on living a prayerful life. Seriously, if you don’t read another one of my blogs, but read one of his books, I will be supremely happy. He’s that good.
That’s all for tonight. Let me know what you are reading that touches you deeply at the soul level. Maybe it’s a book that will do the same for me. And may the God of the earthquake and the God of the thunder also be the God of your silence and the God of your solitude. Amen.