How can we hear the voice of God in our lives if they are full of noise and clutter?
First, a few excerpts from The Way of the Heart:
“There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing. We simply go along with the many 'musts' and 'oughts' that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord (Nouwen, 21-22).”
“How can we expect to remain full of creative vitality, of zeal for the Word of God, of desire to serve, and of motivation to inspire our often numbed congregations? Where are we supposed to find nurture and strength? How can we alleviate our own spiritual hunger and thirst (Nouwen, 12-13)?”
“We have to find a practical and workable response to Paul’s exhortation: 'Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind' (Nouwen, 14).”
Do any of these quotes unearth a subterranean longing in your heart for rest, transformation and meaning that you haven’t been able to find a solution for?
Henri Nouwen wrote a little book called The Way of the Heart (highly recommended) that feels like deep calling to deep in how it presents a compelling invitation to be spiritually formed in ways that push back against the compulsiveness of our world through silence, solitude and prayer.
I believe these are the three most counter-cultural practices we can prioritize because everything in our world creates compulsion for more, busyness and constant distraction and noise. But, what I believe we all want is transformation and meaning in how we live that flows from a deep well of intimacy with Jesus.
In the fall of 2023, the Fishhook team took a few weeks to learn about and practice silence and solitude. It was a really meaningful time of reading through Nouwen’s book, discussing as a team and practicing some of these things. This book and these practices stretched us deeply and continue to do so, and as we went through this, we felt like this may be meaningful for you and your team as well!
The front end warning is that these are not easy practices. We love noise, activity and feeling productive. This invitation is not that. It’s an invitation to cease producing, to quiet your soul and to linger with Jesus as a new way of life.
If any of this is compelling to you, I would encourage you to buy the book, read the book and begin to put it into practice. We would also love to hear from you and encourage you in this!
As a help to the practices of silence and solitude, I wrote out a little guide for how to plan and prepare for these times. I hope it’s helpful!
We are praying for you! The compulsions and expectations of ministry are hard to combat, hard to sift through and can leave you weary. Jesus invites you to come to him if you are weary, and he will teach you his way and give you rest.
As you follow the way of Christ, may you experience his peace.
Before You Spend Time in Silence and Solitude
Get caught up on work as much as possible.
Get a good night of sleep.
Keep the TV and phone off in the morning.
Somewhere quiet, comfortable
If it’s nice, a good park with trails and benches is great!
This is really as unique as each person’s personality. Any of these ideas are just that, ideas. However you spend the time, the goals are around solitude and silence.
Phones on do not disturb (not on you if you can handle it!)
When to-dos come up in your mind, write them down and move on!
Simple prayer – start your time and invite the Lord to speak. When you get distracted, return to Jesus by simply saying His name or praying something simple like one of these:
“Come, Holy Spirit, speak to me.”
“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”
“Jesus, you are here.”
Silence – Obviously. Try to spend the entirety of your time without saying anything! Any reflections, prayers, thoughts that come, plan to write them in a journal. Then go back to just being.
Solitude – Obviously. Try to stay away from busy areas. People watching kills solitude!
Scripture – Read through and slowly pray through Scripture. The Psalms are great for this! Slowly working through the sections of Psalm 119 could be a great place to start.
Communion – if you want, plan to end your time in communion. This is a great way to reflect on the time, spend time in repentance and realign your heart with the Lord’s.
Give yourself grace! This is really hard to jump into. Know that the Lord is good, full of grace and loves your time and attention. He’s honored by your pursuit of him!
In the following days/weeks, revisit your journal. Ask the Lord to show you anything he wants you to do, then take simple next steps.
Continue practicing silence in your daily time with the Lord to grow this area and plan future dates for longer stretches of silence and solitude.