Spiritual disciplines are simply exercises that we can engage in which help to open our hearts to God’s work of transformation and change. Disciplines do not earn us favor before God–nor are they magic formulas which force God to bless us. Rather, they are training exercises which put us in a place of dependence and receptivity to God’s sanctifying work in our hearts.
Solitude and silence are what I consider “primary disciplines”. They are not primary in the sense of having greater importance or significance than other disciplines. But they are primary in the sense that they lay the groundwork for other disciplines.
We live in a time and culture in which there is constant noise and constant activity, and we easily succumb to the lie that the level of activity in our life defines our level of worth. Then in church culture there is an added layer of self-righteousness attached to that, because surely if we are constantly busy in the work of God’s Kingdom, that must make us better Christians. So it is only when we intentionally break away from that constant busyness and clamor that we are able to engage more deeply with God in other disciplines like the study of Scripture and the practice of prayer and the cultivation of thankfulness.
That is why I believe solitude and silence can be so transformative in the life of a Christian. And this is not just something that I believe theoretically, but something which I have experienced in my own life and seen in the lives of many others.
With a little planning and forethought, it is not too difficult on your own to set aside a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon and find a quiet park or cafe to be alone with Jesus for a few hours. But I have also found that withdrawing in solitude with a small community can help enhance that time even more. Toward that end, I regularly plan what I call “A Day with Jesus“, where a small group of fellow Christians gather together at a location I reserve ahead of time, enjoy some time alone with Jesus, then come back together to share about our time of solitude. If you’d like to join me in one of these solitude retreats, you can find out more information and register here.
NOTE: I’m anticipating a ministry sabbatical this fall (Sept – Dec 2015) so I don’t have any retreat dates on the calendar for summer or fall, but if you’d like some help in setting one up for yourself or your small group, please contact me and I will see what I can do.