I think silence and solitude are perhaps some of the most challenging practices in the Christian life. At least it has been for me. For many years this idea would not have even crossed my mind, and if and when it did, I would have assumed it was a waste of time. Sitting around daydreaming or navel-gazing seems like an inefficient use of time, especially in light of all the work needed to reach the world for Christ. However, what I’ve discovered in my busyness trying to reach the world for Christ, I had little to no time to be with Christ and abide in him. Abiding has not only happened when I steal away for quiet time alone with Jesus, but even in the busyness of the most active parts of my day, I have become more aware of Jesus presence. Silence and solitude have become a gateway for me in learning to abide in Jesus. So here are some thoughts from somebody who is still learning what it means to spend time in silence and solitude with Jesus throughout the day.
1. No Special Formula
There is no unique formula for “doing” silence and solitude. The whole point of the practice is not to get it right but to be with Jesus. When you sit down at a coffee shop with a friend, you don’t go into that time thinking, “I wonder how I should do this, or I wonder if I’m going to spend my time with them correctly?” You go and be with your friend. When I’m driving in my car with my wife, and we are just together in the quietness of our commute, I’m not concerned with why we aren’t speaking or if I’m not doing it right. I’m together in the quiet with the love of my life. The same is true when we approach our time with Jesus in silence and solitude. The point is not to get it right but to be with him and experience his love.
2. No searching necessary.
When I first began taking time away from the distractions of my life to be with Jesus in silence and solitude, it was as though I was looking for Jesus presence. I have discovered that he is always present (I’ve known this cognitively, but now I experience it). He promised never to leave us or forsake us. So the truth is I am the one who is sometimes not present with him because he is always present with me. Much like when I am not present with my wife or children because I am distracted by my phone, and my wife says to me, ” Are you going to be with us here today?” The same is true in my times with Jesus. He is always present; I am too often distracted
like Martha (see Jesus famous encounter with two sisters, Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42) with the many endeavours. However, even in the busiest times of my day, I can return my attention to Christ’s presence. This concept is why Brother Lawrance, in his famous book practising the presence of Jesus, could say, “my set times of prayer were not different from other times. My awareness of and practising of God’s presence did not change from my fixed prayer times and my business time. “
3. No guilt or judgement
Throughout the day, when I realize that I have not been present with Jesus or aware of his constant presence in my life, I regularly feel some guilt and shame for being so distracted. However, this sense of guilt and shame does not come from God. My experience with Jesus has been quite the opposite. He’s like the greatest friend you’ve ever had, who, although you may not have called or texted in a while, is thrilled you reconnected. Jesus has been waiting to reconnect because you are his greatest joy and his love for you knows no limits. It’s like no time has passed, and there is no guilt and shame.
4.No checklist – just some tips.
I want to offer some practical items that I have found helpful when pausing for silence and solitude with Jesus. I am nervous about sharing these for several reasons.
a. I still feel like a novice in this area, and I hope that feeling never changes.
b. I don’t want you to think more highly of me than you ought. I have not arrived, and I am on a journey just like you.
c. I don’t want you to use these tips as a checklist or formula for ‘doing it the right way’.
d. I don’t want you to begin worshipping the practices of silence and solitude instead of the person of Jesus.
I found that setting a specific time (two minutes as I began my day) to be still and silent was incredibly helpful initially. A timer that begins and ends my silence with a bell and chimes at intervals of 1 or 2 minutes has been very helpful. These chimes have been beneficial when my mind wanders (not if but when my mind wanders) to remind me to re-focus my attention on Jesus presence. When my mind does wander, and it does, having a simple phrase to re-centre my attention on Jesus has also been helpful. I frequently use the phrase “I am here, Lord” to bring me back to an awareness of Jesus presence. Occasionally, I simply say the name Jesus as I return to his company.
Finally, may I remind you there is no perfect way to “do” silence and solitude with Jesus. The goal is to be with him and to experience his love. I know your times of silence and solitude will be a blessing to you because you will encounter Jesus presence and love intimately. I have found that these structured and scheduled times have been the gateway to less structured and scheduled times of abiding in Jesus throughout the day. Why not pause for two minutes to be with Jesus now?