It’s surprising how loud silence can be. Especially when you’re not used to it.
That’s my experience each winter, sitting there in the deer stand, the only manmade structure in sight. I am alone in the woods, it is silent — but for the whipping of the frigid Minnesota wind — and my soul is decompressing from months on end in the urban jungle. Body and soul find fresh air there that is hard to come by in the big city.
I want you to join me. Not in the stand (that would ruin it) but in some silent, occasional solitude of your own. You need a break from the chaos, from the noise and the crowds, more than you may think at first. You need the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude.
Silence and Solitude
We are humans, not machines. We were made for rhythms of silence and noise, community and solitude. It is unhealthy to always have people around, as well as to rarely want them. God made us for cycles and seasons, for routines and cadences.
From the dawn of time, we have needed our respites. Even the God-man himself was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1), “went out to a desolate place” (Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42), and “went up on the mountain by himself to pray . . . alone” (Matthew 14:23).
Getting away from time to time has always been a human necessity, but it’s all the more pressing in modern life. Especially urban life. By all accounts, things are more crowded, and noisier, than they’ve ever been.
“One of the costs of technological advancement,” says Don Whitney, “is a greater temptation to avoid quietness.” And so, many of us “need to realize the addiction we have to noise” (Spiritual Disciplines, 228). Sometimes I catch myself thoughtlessly flipping on the radio every time in the car. On occasion I’ll turn it off and try to consciously be mindful of God and pray. In the middle of a busy week, it’s remarkable how strange, and wonderful, the silence can be.
And so the excesses and drawbacks of modern life have only increased the value of silence and solitude as spiritual disciplines. We need to get alone and be quiet more than ever before.
Why Get Away?
But merely getting away isn’t enough. There is benefit to be had in just letting your soul decompress and getting out of the concrete jungle, enjoying nature, and letting your soul breathe fresh air. But there’s nothing distinctly Christian about that. For those of us who are in Christ, we want to come back better, not only rested, but more ready to love and sacrifice. We want to find new clarity, resolve, and initiative, or primed to re-double our efforts, by faith, in our callings in the home, among friends, at work, and in the body of Christ.
One benefit of silence is simply searching the depths of our own souls, asking what our blind spots have become in the rush of everyday life. In the busyness, is there anything important I’m neglecting or repressing? How am I doing in my various roles? What needs refocusing?