Updated: Oct 25, 2019
I am in the process of stepping into silence and solitude. It is a challenging practice for me, to quiet my mind, my heart, my body, and my soul. It is not easy by any means, but so completely necessary.
I just finished reading Brennan Manning's book, Abba's Child, for the second time. He writes about what it means to belong to God as His beloved child and how to rest secure in that. It is so easy to let that thought disappear from our minds, and from our hearts. Two of my favorite theologians in the same quote write about this paradox.
"Writing to a New York intellectual and close friend, Henri Nouwen stated, 'All I want to say to you is, 'You are the Beloved, and all I hope is that you can hear these words spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being-"You are the Beloved."
Anchored in this reality; our true self needs neither a muted trumpet to herald our arrival nor a gaudy soapbox to rivet attention from others. We give glory to God simply by being ourselves" (Manning, 52).
Manning goes on to talk about the beauty of silence and solitude. The beauty of having those intimate moments with God where it is just you and him and no one else. Sometimes I think it is so easy to escape those moments, yet God wants to give them to us as a gift. Maybe we just have to take it. I've been learning so much about what it means to be intimate with God, what it means to listen and wait on him.
Sometimes I've encountered those "thin places" (a friend once called it that, and I love her phrase) where the curtain between God and me becomes a bit transparent. I begin to sense God's heart in a more profound, more alive way. I catch small and brief glimpses of the character of God, and it is such a humbling experience.
One. Where have you been experiencing the silence of God? What are your thin places?
Manning writes of the poetry of silence and how that allows us, in our messiness as humans, to engage with the holiness of our Creator. He writes: "Silence is not simply the absence of noise or the shutdown of communication with the outside world, but rather a process of coming to stillness. Silent solitude forges true speech. I'm not speaking of physical isolation; solitude here means being alone with the Alone, experiencing the transcendent Other and growing in awareness of one's identity as the beloved. It is impossible to know another person intimately without spending time together. Silence makes this solitude a reality. It has been said, 'Silence is solitude practiced in action'" (56). Today, my thin, holy, sacred space, looked like listening to choral music conducted and composted by Eric Whitacre, with my devotions. I am trying to practice listening to God more. As I listen to different podcasts (one of my new favorites is "The Liturgist"), the idea of prayer as a conversation has been articulated.
Two. What does it mean to not just engage with God by talking, but also listening?
What might he/she say in the stillness? When you pray, what does that look like? For me, it can be journaling, walking, running, practicing yoga, taking a deep breath, or playing the piano. The farther I go on my Jesus journey, the more I realize that prayer, that intimacy with God, can happen in our ordinary life.
To paraphrase Shane Claiborne, prayer can make ordinary, extra-ordinary.
Three. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
So, dear reader, I leave you with these final verses and questions. Romans 12.1-2 says: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you" (The Message).
How can we be with God, in this moment, in this here and now? How can we listen for God's quiet whispers of calm or loud shouts of joy?
How can we encounter sacred space with our Creator?
Works Cited Manning, Brennan. Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Colorado Springs, Colorado, NavPress, 994. Print. Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 25 September 2019.