Summary: In considering the spiritual discipline of solitude and silence, we want to ask: 1. Why do we need solitude? 2. What are the benefits of solitude? 3. How do we move into solitude?
We seem to be obsessed with our bodies. If you believed the commercials, you would believe that you really can lose 30 pounds in ten days while eating everything you want. Or if that doesn’t work, you can buy the Reduce-EZ girdle, and lose weight just by wearing it. If that doesn’t do it, you can take the Fat-Magnet pill to flush the fat from your body. For the more serious minded you can order the Soloflex machine which shows men and women with rippling muscles they have developed in just 15 minutes a day. I went to the Infomercial web site and found out all the great ways I can improve my body. I can get rid of a flabby stomach with the Ab-doer, the Abrageous, the Ab Roller or the Ab Swing. I can get into shape by buying the Total Gym, The Firm body sculpting system or the Bun & Thigh Rocker. I could buy step aerobics or Taebo videos. I can grow all my hair back, regain my youth and enhance my physical appearance in countless ways.
It is interesting how preoccupied we are with our bodies and give so little attention to our spirit and soul. In our society you could do very well by having a body by Soloflex and a mind by Mattel. We are a culture which worships symbol over substance. As long as we look good on the outside it doesn’t matter what we are like on the inside. Hollywood and Nashville are full of beautiful and vacuous people. Many of them are shells of humanity. What does it mean to be fully alive and fully human? It means that we develop our inner lives as well as our outer lives. It is in the interior life where we make preparations for the exterior life.
The next several weeks we will be talking about the spiritual disciplines — the methods by which we develop our inner life. I would recommend two classic books on the subject if you would like to go deeper. The first is Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, and Dallas Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. Reading these books, and putting their teaching into practice, will change your life, but you will not experience a change if you are still doing everything you want to do and only working at the spiritual disciplines a few times a month. You have to have a spiritual hunger for something more. You have to want to live life at a deeper level. Dallas Willard says, “The spiritual life is a life of interaction with a personal God, and it is pure delusion to suppose that it can be carried on sloppily. The will to do his will can only be carried into reality as we take measures to be ready and able to meet and draw upon him in our actions.”
We will be looking at a different spiritual discipline each week. Today we will be considering the discipline of silence and solitude. These disciplines of the spiritual life are so wonderful, but they are also difficult because they are so counter cultural. The music of the culture is so loud and angry. Sometimes the radio is way too loud for me and it is the radio in the car behind me. I literally seems to be pulsing and rocking with the vibrations. We have media centers in our homes which pour out immorality and violence. Now our cars have VCR’s and DVD’s, as well as stereos. People walk around with headsets on. We can’t stand the silence.
I love the Canadian wilderness so much, and I suffered under the delusion that once my wife and girls went there, they would love it too. I still remeber being in the middle of the wilderness canoeing on a pristine lake when I said to the girls, "Do you hear that?" "Hear what," they said. "The silence," I responded. "Yes," they grumbled, "and we hate it." Oh well...
A lot of people feel that way about silence. Perhaps we are afraid of our thoughts. That’s why the world finds its fulfillment in partying; they want to be distracted. But if we want to live something more than a shallow life, we want to go into the world of solitude and silence.
As we look at this important spiritual discipline, we want to ask, first of all: Why do we need solitude? Spiritual disciplines are for the purpose of disciplining our desires and feelings, and turning them away from our physical appetites and setting them toward God. Solitude means getting alone for awhile so that we can begin to know ourselves and know God in a deeper way. We also need to get away from noise. We need solitude and silence because the world is bombarding us with all kinds of emotional messages — many of which are not only wrong, but detrimental to our spiritual well-being. We need to get in touch with reality and the truth. We need to get in touch with ourselves. And most of all we need to get in touch with God, our Creator. We need to get a proper perspective and realign our priorities. Our lives are so filled with noise. We are so inundated with subtle and not so subtle messages. We are overstimulated. We need to reduce the stimulation so that we can hear ourselves think, and hear what God is saying to us. We need to get alone with God.