Learning to Listen

Panic. Dread. Unprecedented Fear. These emotions describe the turmoil in our car just moments before Jorjanne’s first driving lesson.After a quick prayer, I gently instructed her on keeping it between the lines, knowing when to brake and when to speed up. As I did these feelings slowly began to dissipate. Peace and calm gradually filled the space once filled with anxiety and worry.

As I’ve reflected on our time together in the car I realized that in order for Jorjanne to focus on driving we had to tune out the distractions (turn off cell phones and radio). She listened intently to my voice and worked diligently to obey the commands given to her.

God wants us to do the same in daily lives. Too often distractions drown out his still, small voice until we are consumed with doing what the world deems important, and our thoughts become consumed with worry.

Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and psychologist, wrote “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”

Let me say that again. “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.”

If this is true, how many of us are failing to live a spiritual life? Why is it that so many of us avoid getting alone and being still before the Lord? I believe the answer lies in our own inability to stop our thoughts from wandering. 

I don’t know about you, but when I get quiet my mind starts to race. I think about my to-do list and have to fight the urge to not “do something.” If I am quiet long enough anxieties, fears, hurtful memories, anger, and pain threaten to consume me. Uncomfortable with these feelings, I want to stop this “inner chat” and resume my life of busyness. “We are surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when he is speaking to us.”

This is the opposite of what God calls us to do. We are to be still before the Lord. It is only when we allow these thoughts to permeate us, that God is able to counter our hurts and fears with the peace that surpasses understanding. Slowly the Holy Spirit does a healing work in the deep recesses of our heart and soul.

One of my professors in seminary required that we spend 3 hours alone with the Lord. Honestly, I dreaded this assignment and thought it was a waste of time. So out of obligation, I gathered my Bible, a hymnal, a journal and my guitar and headed for the state park. In the beginning there was a lot of awkwardness. My mind wandered, and I would fight to bring it back to the Word. As I disciplined myself to be still, I experienced one of the sweetest, most intimate times with the Lord that I’ve ever had. I left that park different than I arrived. I left with contentment, peace and joy even though my life circumstances remained the same.

Nouwen stated it this way. “Our hope is not based on something that will happen after our sufferings are over, but on the real presence of God’s healing Spirit in the midst of these sufferings.”

Spending 3 hours alone with God daily is not realistic for most of us. The point of this blog is to encourage you to find a starting point for solitude. Consider scheduling time in your calendar for solitude and don’t let anything change that appointment. Get up early on Sundays and spend time preparing your heart for worship — maybe even go to the Church and find a quiet place to pray and listen.

Solitude is not easy. It is awkward at first, but it has the potential to radically sanctify us and make us more like Christ. If Jesus was always intently listening to the Father, how much more do we need to do so?

One Comment

  1. Driving a semi gives me a lot of alone time. I love the times when I am able to turn the cab of my truck into a sanctuary or worship and crying out to God. It's during those times I am able to refresh my mind and spirit and step out of the world for a while.

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