Embracing the Stillness
the absence of movement or sound.
the state or situation of being alone.
The definition is simple enough. Finding space for it may seem impossible. Just to be clear…when I talk about stillness and solitude…I’m not picturing us walking around a monastery living lives with a vow of silence or removed from the cares of everyday life. (although sometimes that sounds like a lovely idea.) I’m picturing you living your messy, everyday life - in the midst of projects or kiddos, family and job demands; real life needs like making a living and caring for the people around you. Unless you’re living a life of seclusion (which I would challenge because community is SOOOO essential throughout Scripture), then people are involved in your life… and where people are…there is sin, brokenness, demands, needs, and mess. Solitude and stillness often seem like a challenge in this context of everyday life. Practicing this discipline often looks as though you’re doing nothing- but it is a declaration of faith. It is a way to posture our lives to better hear God’s whisper. Without this practice, we become scattered, overwhelmed and caught up in the stressors.
Once we have stillness inside of us, we can then have something to offer something to the chaos around us. Holy peace and perspective are in short supply these days but are invaluable. Depending on your personality, it can seem counter-intuitive…to need to separate - but without it, we become swept up in the current of hurry and need that surrounds us. All we can feel are the crashing waves when we forget to lift our gaze and lock eyes with our Savior. If our gaze is heavenward, we can can speak peace to the storm. It clears our vision so we can remember the ultimate story going on around us. It makes our needs feel smaller in the big scheme of things. Because, let’s be honest- unless you’re living with your head in the sand, life is tough and scary and full of unknowns. People experience horrific things for which there are no words and children go hungry. So, when I encourage a lifestyle of slowing down, of making space to be quiet and behold the Lord- it’s not so that we can hide away and ignore the world’s problems. It’s because ironically- getting away and renewing our mind and vision is the only way we can see clearly enough to offer hope to chaotic situations.
So how do we start? Baby steps, my friends. Embrace the spaces that life naturally offers you already- sit in the stillness of those moments rather than filling them in or rushing away from them. (For mamas with littles…well, these will be fewer than they once were, but you can still do this!) What are the spaces that I’m talking about? Richard Foster calls them “little solitudes”. Here’s where you can find some - the quiet moments when you first are waking up in bed, coming to consciousness before the family is awake. Whether 2 or 10 minutes… sit in it. Face the stillness. Moments when you arrive at your appointment a few minutes early…instead of mindlessly scrolling or rushing inside, sit in the car, be still. When you arrive home and are in the car- before hurrying inside onto the next thing…sit, embrace the space instead of hurrying past it (even if you have a sleeping kid in the back this still counts!). You can get creative with this…start paying attention to the “little solitudes” throughout your day that you are hurrying past or filling. Notice every time you pick up your phone to fill in the void, it might surprise you! Also… what about bathroom breaks? ;) This can look different ways… maybe your body is not still but you can practice inner stillness and solitude as you walk to work or to the park, etc. You get the idea, right? DO IT!
Embracing these little moments that already exist in life and redeeming them for stillness and solitude (which I think perhaps they were intended for) is in my opinion, the first step to embracing the stillness and posturing your life to better hear the whispers of God. It might be uncomfortable at first…you might have a twitch to pick up your phone, you might forget 30 seconds in… you might be surprised at how loud your clamoring thoughts are… but stick with it. Face the thoughts, face the fears and your mind will eventually quiet and you’ll be making progress. This is a spiritual battle.
P.S. This book has GREATLY impacted my spiritual life. I have read and reread this more than any other book in the past few years. He covers SO much about spiritual disciplines including a chapter on Solitude. Can’t recommend enough to anyone looking to become more disciplined in their spiritual life. This is a fantastic resource for those who aren’t really sure where to start. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster