Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Matthew 14:13 "Silence and Solitude"

"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." NIV
Jesus has just received the news that his cousin and predecessor, John the Baptist, has been beheaded. What does He do with that? He withdraws for some solitude probably to grieve and spend time with His Father.

How often do we withdraw to a solitary place to recuperate and spend time alone with the Lord? Jesus clearly demonstrates this principle multiple times throughout the gospels. But still, we are generally a people that does not seek solitude. Even if we are alone, we turn on a TV, IPod, cell phone, text messaging, laptop -- anything to break the silence -- when the key to the solitude is the silence. Why is that? What is it about ourselves that makes being alone so difficult?

I'm an introvert and love having time alone. I even love silence. But I have found that when I go away on a 3-day personal retreat where I take basically myself and my Bible, I even have an adjustment period where the silence is deafening. I catch myself yearning for distractions rather than sitting with my own thoughts. But eventually, the tension of the silence fades, and I'm left with a peaceful, clear mind that is ready to truly pray to the Father -- a 2-way conversation. So often with the noisy distractions of life, my ears become comfortable with the chaotic sounds and the Father's voice is just a hum in the background. By removing the distractions, I can focus in so much better on Him and what He has to say to me.

In this case, Jesus was grieving and needed time alone. But we should be seeking that silence and solitude every day -- even if it is just for 5-10 minutes. There are stresses and difficulties regularly bombarding each of us. Our focus can become skewed from all the facets of our life. That time alone with the Father can make the chaos disperse, and we are left with clarity and direction.

Another way to look at it is that the busyness and activities of life can really make us focus on me, me, me. What do I need to do? How does this affect me? What will I get out of this? How much will it cost me? By spending alone time with the Father, our focus is pulled away from ourselves and drawn back to Him. He's still God; He's still in control; He's still good; He still loves me and wants the very best for me. I will serve Him no matter what.

Further Thoughts:
  1. The Psalms are a great expression of time spent in solitude. David pours out his heart, but also recognizes the sovereignty of God. Read a few Psalms and see what David learned in solitude.
  2. Read from the writings of some classic authors/aesthetics who knew the art of solitude and silence. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bernard of Clarivaux, C.S. Lewis, Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, Francis of Assisi, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to name a few.
  3. Spend 10 minutes today in silence and solitude. Try not to think of your "to do" list, work, plans....just focus on listening to your Father. He so wants time alone with you.
  4. After time alone with the Lord, if He spoke to you about something specific, write it down in a journal. After all, if the Almighty Creator of the Universe takes time to talk to you, it must be important.

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