Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lessons from Silence and Solitude

Today I did something totally radical..  I spent almost the entire day in silence and solitude.

Crazy.  Totally crazy, I know.  And where did I come up with this idea, anyway?

Well, my DH is taking seminary classes at Moody, and one of the classes he had to take was entitled, "Spiritual Disciplines".  And one of those disciplines is "silence" and another is "solitude".

As soon as I heard about this, I had this distinct feeling that no mother had ever experienced this, and I, for one, wanted to be the first.

Silence?  You mean.. like.. nobody talking??  Solitude?  You mean.. nobody being with me?

My first thought is this:  isn't that a tad... indulgent??

It's like when I got my first massage.  I know it's good for me.. but shouldn't I feel guilty about this?

And yes, the idea totally appealed to me, but getting over my guilt and then finding a way to make it happen..  actually all came together this weekend.

The kids had an all-day event they wanted to attend, which left Will (DH.. dear husband) and I to be home all day on a Saturday. So, I asked him about the possibility of me doing a day of silence and solitude.  I was thrilled when he said, "yes!".. and was very supportive of the entire idea.

On a side note, the experience of being mentored by the people at Moody have made such a wonderful impact on his life that he probably would have never considered this type of retreat necessary for me to experience, unless he had first experienced it and seen the benefits.

So, with a brief discussion of what to expect and not to expect, Will and I plotted out the day so that I could have a retreat from 9:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

So, what was it like for a hyper-extrovert to spend an entire day in silence??


No phone, no internet, no music, no conversation, nothing but the sound of this insane cardinal crashing itself into our window 17 times an hour.

The idea is that you are listening for God.  The crashing cardinal was just part of the scene.

I did have some trouble stopping the habit of: talking out loud to myself..  which happened only about 10 times before I stopped short of the end of the thought.  But when I asked myself a question, I usually answered in my head.

Finally, I asked myself when I was going to stop talking (in my head)??  And why am I always talking (out loud or otherwise?)
So, while I pondered the idea of whether or not I could shut down my brain enough for God to speak, I consoled myself with a lot of cleaning.

 I actually think pretty well if my hands are somewhat active.  I did about 4 blitz sessions, with each session sandwiches with some Bible reading.

And I kept asking myself why am I cleaning so much?  other than: it needs to be done!  But, light housekeeping (not deep organizing) is somewhat mundane enough to keep my mind active and focused.

So, did I learn any deep lessons through this?

I think I did.  After about three hours, I was making lunch for myself, and I had this thought, "Nobody is going to ask me to do anything!"   Nobody needs me!  And suddenly, rather than being disappointed, I was just at rest.

 At rest.

And God said, and I don't require anything more of you right now, either.

At rest.

And all of a sudden I realized how much of my life is fragmented between meeting this need and that need.. answering this question and that question..  and never really sure if I can finish a coherent thought..  and just wondering how much more do I have to do.. before I can rest??

And at the same time as having that thought, I have a parallel thought which is: thank you for giving me so much to care for.. where would I be without the needs of a husband and children?  Where would I be without them?  And to realize that I probably have never been fully alone, in this capacity, with the idea of being with God and listening to him.  And the thought of being alone (in short durations) doesn't scare me anymore.

Before I knew it, the sky was darkening.  The cardinal stopped crashing.  (He only works during the daylight hours).  DH came home.  The kids came home.  The cello started.  The life is back to normal.

And I think I may have heard something..  the voice of God.. in silence.


Bernadette Veenstra said...

Wow! I thrive on silence. I actually stayed up late on Friday night, when everyone was sleeping, just to hear nothing. So nice.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

I need those times to rest and be refreshed. Haven't had a whole day of it, though - it sounds wonderful :D

Good for you, Jena, and hurray for Will being supportive!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Now that my 7 are grown, I have many days of silence and solitude, and I am surprised by how content and happy I am (being a hyper-extrovert like you). It's amazing how satisfying it is to just talk with God throughout the day as I work...feels a little like being able to "practice the presence of God" without being a monk. :)

Mrs. Parunak said...

I love silence and solitude! I'm thankful for all the people I have to take care of though, too.