As much as I love solitude, I don’t love silence.
Anything but silence. Please. It’s deafening. It’s unfamiliar. It’s uncomfortable.
This week we’re doing the “Be Still” Challenge, and the timing was perfect. I went away for the night to rejuvenate my mama-soul. And because I was away from the fray of everyday life I was able to listen to the entire 49-minute talk about sacred downtime on my phone while I settled into my room.
Just a few minutes in and I was convicted by how my 24 hours of planned rest and retreat was already filled with technology, connectedness, multitasking, busy-ness, and an agenda. I got excited to be still for 20 minutes and re-set. Clearly, I needed it.
I set the timer, closed my eyes, and started to pray. But then I caught myself. “This isn’t prayer time. This is do nothing time.” It was at that moment when I understood how challenging this would be for me. I was confident I could sit in silence (I am stubborn and this was a “challenge,” after all) but I realized I wasn’t supposed to actually do anything in the silence. Not pray, not plan, not make a grocery list in my head.
I tried to follow my breathing like you learn to do in yoga. I tried to capture thoughts as they popped into my head and pay attention to them. And I learned a few things about myself.
- I recognized how anxiety-focused my thinking is. What if I set the timer wrong and I accidentally sit here for three hours instead of twenty minutes? What if I can’t get the car started in the morning? What if my family forgot to bring the veggie tray to the dinner they were attending tonight? So many of my thoughts involved a “What if…?”
- I realized how demanding and impatient I am with God. “God, speak to me. I’m here and I’m listening.” Well, I’m sure He appreciates operating according to my timeline.
- I was convicted of how often my prayer life, under the guise of seeking divine guidance, involves me trying to invite God into my life and my dreams rather than asking that He embed himself unrestrainedly into my life and thereupon shape my dreams.
My brain wafted in and out of engagement. As much as I tried to calm it down it wanted to stay busy. The time started out as restful but moved into anxiousness. “How much longer?” I resisted the urge to peek at the timer. But when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I cheated. I looked. There were 54 seconds left on the clock.
Though it was not as easy as I thought it would be, I found that when I stopped demanding and listening and talking and thinking – God was there.
I’ve always loved the story of Elijah and this practice reminded me – the still, small voice that spoke to him is still speaking to each of us. But sometimes hearing it doesn’t take the active engagement we think it does. Sometimes it takes active disengagement.
Have you tried to Be Still? Was disengaging hard for you? Tell us about your experience!