It happened every six weeks. Checks on my first-grade report card for unnecessary talking. While my teacher, Mrs. Garret, and parents found no pleasure in my boisterous bent, this was probably normal for an adventurous boy. Yes, young children talk a lot, but we can see its purity even if it sometimes gets annoying. Their young minds are simply exploring the world around them, verbalizing their findings, and announcing their questions with no other motive than sharing the fun with everyone around them. It’s simple. It’s plain. There are no hidden agendas.
On the other hand, when we get older, we tend to wonder about someone constantly wanting to be the center of conversational attention. What are they trying to prove? Why do they always need to have the last word and share their story even though no one asked for it? Why can’t they quiet down and let someone else speak? Is there something broken deep within them that drives their constant need to be in charge verbally? Could being too talkative be dangerous? If not, could learning restraint, silence, and solitude benefit us and others? Could we also prosper by getting away from the noise of others?
A while back, I began a sermon series at my church focused on spiritual disciplines. These are practices that a follower of Christ can employ to mature in their journey. Topics like Bible reading, prayer, and fasting often top the list of regular exercises designed to grow our faith. But what of the discipline of silence and solitude? When you look at Jesus, who is not only the divine son of God but was also the perfect man when he lived in the flesh, we find that these were two regular practices in his life. He exhibited these practices in his daily routine, his guidance for his disciples, and the surprising way he revealed silent strength and control in the presence of his persecutors.
Following the example of Christ is not the only reason to be silent and secluded from the spotlight. The testimony of all scripture and Church history demonstrates this merit toward spiritual growth. The great Moses and Apostle Paul both grew up in extended times of solitude and silence. The seclusion of Moses outside of the public sector lasted 40 years. Both men were profoundly transformed during their isolation.
By deliberately choosing to be quiet, our hearts are refined, and our faith is built. When we open to God’s leading in our hearts, we can excavate deep wounds within our souls that scammer for attention by constantly attempting to dominate the conversation. Conversely, in our silence, we can finally surrender and trust that God can take care of situations and even defend us in more ways than we know.
When we are silent before God, we both acknowledge that he is beyond measure and we are small. In addition, in our deliberate silence and solitude, we put ourselves in a position to receive his wisdom and direction. In our relationships, when we take account of our tongue before others, we can truly hear them beyond mentally planning our next verbal move on the board. The goal is our growth and ability to help others with the right words and at the right time. The goal is not simply fewer words but fuller words.
So, if you’re up for the challenge, why not intentionally try some silence and solitude next week? Before you speak, ask if you need to or not. Has your input been requested, or are you inserting your opinion for your pleasure? Have you been quiet enough to understand what is happening, or are you jumping the gun by trying to fix surface issues? Instead of filling every minute with your voice before God, what could you learn if you were silent before his Bible and presence and humbly waiting for his word?
I’ve seen parents challenge their kids (and have probably done this before myself) with something along the lines of, “Ok, let’s play a game; let’s see who can go the longest without talking on the road trip.” Can we do that ourselves? Can we set aside time in our day and relationships to be quiet and listen? With all the noise in our lives today, can we deliberately shut the racket off and listen to God’s voice? The ancient practice of getting away from the crowds and noise of the world is just as relevant and helpful today. This is probably even more so with the constant barrage of media talking heads with out of context sound bites always in our ears.
I remember reading part of Billy Graham’s life story some time ago. The biographer capitalized on the night that everything changed for the world-renowned evangelist. One of his contemporaries had been attempting to pull Graham into a more liberal stream of theology that disregarded the authenticity and authority of the Bible. Billy wrestled internally for several months and finally spent a night outside in the darkness with only God. After hours of silence and solitude, God met him with confirmation of the calling in his heart.
The line in the sand moment rocked Graham into his ministry of reaching thousands with the love of Christ. Because he was intentionally silent and away from the noise of the world, he could receive assurance from God, find authority in God’s word, and launch out with God’s mission with certainty.
James tells us all that if we draw near to God, He will also draw near to us. That nearness does not come with a litany of our own words but rather by our silence before God and His word. That is where the power is at. I’ve often heard people speak of wanting to hear from God. Maybe that is you. If so, there seems to be some direction if your desire is genuine. To surrender to solitude and silence before God, whether for a moment or a weekend alone in the woods. The point is not the amount of time but the condition of the heart. The path seems to be one of a willingness to show up and humbly obey as God leads. We see in a crisis moment in the life of Elijah that God met him not in an earthquake but in a still, small voice. Would we be quiet enough to hear if God only spoke in such a small voice?
It’s an area where I am still trying to grow. What about you, and what would you add?