Quiet.  Solitude.  Silence.  Rest.

Why, oh why, do we so often miss this?

Why is it easier to clutter up our lives with TV, email, mp3s, cell phones, radios, computer techno-gadgetry, meetings, committees and clubs than it is to take time out and Be Still?  Is it any wonder we can’t hear God speak?  How often is his still, small voice drowned out by distractions, internal noise and busyness?

Following our “Silent 60 Minutes” described earlier, some went on a wildflower walk amid blushing swells of Indian paintbrush, yellow and white daisy clusters and purple-petaled asters.  One guy stretched out in the shade and napped.  Another watched red alders shed their leaves.  Everyone mentioned how the hour of silence was both challenging and rejuvenating.  Peaceful.  Calming.  Soothing and refreshing.  “We should do this more often” was a frequent refrain.    That got us thinking: Why not?

No Wonder We Burn Out

Seriously now, how often are you intentional about taking time out of your busy life to just “come away” and Be Still?  When do you deliberately calendar in time off or time out beyond two weeks in the summer that usually wind up being more of the same, only on the road or in a hotel?  How often do you dive into the day, rushing from one appointment or responsibility to the next, speeding around like Mario Andretti at the Indy 500, then collapse into bed at day’s end, exhausted?

No wonder we burn out.

Constant “busyness” is an IC habit we’re in the process of un-learning.  We’ve seen that perennial busyness can be little more than an excuse, a way of filling up or  camouflaging an otherwise empty or fractured heart.

One reason we may avoid solitude and intentional quiet is because they offer a chance for reflection, meditation and introspection.  Quieting our hearts and minds and laying them at the feet of Jesus seems “counter-cultural” in our busy, busy, busy, 90 mph with our hair on fire society.  We don’t want to be alone with our thoughts, because if we are, we may actually have to … think!  We don’t take take to reflect or listen, to hear what God may be saying, to care for and nurture our hearts.  It’s easier to fill up our days (and nights?) with “noise.”

Sanctified and Surrendered?

Anyone can look sanctified and surrendered from a distance, sitting in a pew on Sunday morning while being perpetually “too busy” to connect or engage beyond “hello” and “goodbye.”  Busyness is one way we can cultivate distance, keep people at arm’s length, never let another soul close enough to see our cracks, flaws, or foibles – or engage in anyone else’s life beyond the shallow and superficial.

Is that what Jesus meant when he said, “Feed my sheep”?

One Reason We Left…

“Noise” is one reason we left the IC.  Clamor, clutter, din and racket can reign supreme in the institutional church.  Oh, much of it’s “nice noise,” to be sure –  “churchy noise” usually is.  Lot sof it may be helpful, even instructive: classes, courses, programs, pre-packaged curricula, satellite uplinks, seminars, hierarchies, schedules, calendars, “ministry opportunities,” special events and so on.

But do you feel refreshed after rushing to the next seminar or class, running to choir practice or teacher training, dashing to Sunday school or volunteering because no one else will?  Does your soul feel rested and refreshed after listening to a monologue, delivered as a lecture, interacting with the back of someone else’s head?

Is that what the Christian life is all about?

Is “Rest” Irresponsible?

Does “rest” –  coming apart to unwind, slow down, and “be still” – sound… like a nice fantasy?  Never, never land?  Irresponsible?  Ministry and serving God are good things, and we should be engaged in ministry, serving God and one another.  But does that necessarily entail exhaustion, fatigue, and guilt if we say “no” once in  awhile?  (More on this in the next post.)

No wonder we burn out.

Whatever happened to, “Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength?”  How do we love the Lord with anything if we’re so exhausted and burnt-out that we’re fried to a “crackly crunch”?

A heart, soul, mind, strength and life that are wholly His are those that learn to rest in Him.  Holiness is about being wholly His.  It includes learning to recognize the movements of our heart and His, hearing and heeding the gentle tug or nudge of the holy Spirit and being led by Him – rather than the next calendar call.  It takes practice.  A lifetime of it.  It also takes listening, and listening requires quiet and solitude.  It’s nigh unto impossible to hear that still, small voice when we’re constantly charging down life’s fast line at 90 mph with our hair on fire.

Being Intentional

So here’s what we’re learning: We must be intentional about slowing down.  (This doesn’t mean being lazy or flaky.  It means exercising our option to say “no” when we need to – and refusing to feel guilty about it.)

Face it, slowing down doesn’t just happen.  We must be deliberate about calendaring time for rest and refreshment into our lives: a picnic, an afternoon at the beach, a hike, a good book, riding bikes with the kids.  Listening to a favorite opera aria, laughing with Lucy and Ricky, Fred and Ethel.  Time away, even if it’s just an overnight camping trip in a tent.

If we’re not intentional about scheduling time to rest and recharge so we can “dial into” that still, small voice – seek Him,  hear Him, know Him – it never happens.   And we don’t want to miss it.

We don’t want to miss Him.