Richard Foster’s chapter on Solitude, in Celebration of Discipline, contains many nuggets of truth that I’ve rediscovered in the last few days as I’ve set aside time to pray and listen to Jesus in quiet.
The disciplines are perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of the Christian faith to the younger generation today. Patience, growth, and maturity are swept away in a culture where instant-gratification trumps all. If you can’t access something through a click or two then it’s not worth the effort.
Solitude, in this manner, is so often thrown out in a world increasingly beset with distractions. Entertainment, information: it’s everywhere and quite aside from conditioning our minds to think in media ‘bites’, it makes it hard to ‘drown it all out’ and quiet our souls before Jesus. Many people, in fact, don’t like the idea at all of having to ‘do nothing’. However, solitude is a vitally important discipline and we can’t ignore it.
“[We] must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meangingfully. We must seek the fellowship of others if we want to be alone safely. We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience.”
It’s not that the extroverts love to hang out with others, and the introverts retreat to the quiet place, but that all of us spend time in fellowship and in solitude. And we must be clear on what solitude is. It’s not simply finding the quietest place possible and just ‘being’, but rather it’s a proactive attitude of placing Jesus first and letting Him speak above all else.
Choosing the Right Words
Words are so incredibly important. Our words can bring life, or bring death. We can chose to honour God or dishonour Him with what our tongues speak out. So often we can find that we say something, only to wish that we hadn’t. Or, also, at the same time, not say something that we really wish we had. Foster tells us what Dietrich Bonhoeffer has to say about keeping our tongues in check:
“Real silence, real stillness, really holding one’s tongue comes only as the sober consequence of spiritual stillness.”
The flip side of this is that we clam up and keep completely quiet. But Thomas à Kempis says this:
“It is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation.”