Solitude and Silence
Mar 22, 2010 by Bruce Demarest | 0 Comments
Solitude and silence, rather than hyperactivity and noise, are two necessary practices for spiritual life. The psalmist wrote, “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psa. 131:2; cf. Zech. 2:13). A commonplace, intuitive understanding of their relation suggests that we first silence the tongue in order to achieve solitude. Noise, after all, is an enemy of solitude.
Spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, reverses this order, suggesting that solitude leads to silence, which then in turn leads to obedient, God-honoring action. Upon reflection this arrangement makes eminently good sense. Solitude is the state of interior stillness that disposes the heart to listen to God and receive him into our hearts. In Nouwen’s words, “We have to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions and dwell in the gentle, healing presence of our Lord.”
From this furnace of solitude in which God is engaged and prayer nourished, we are enabled to control the tongue and speak from a posture of wisdom and strength. Out of silence nurtured in solitude speech is born that is judicious and edifying. Anabaptist Johann Arndt wrote, “If a person wishes to speak well he must learn to be silent.” Jesus modeled this relation. Spending hours in deep communion with his heavenly Father the Lord then spoke life-changing sentences with conviction and power. May we do so as well.