Friday, April 26, 2013

Seeking Silence And Solitude

~ Psalm 46 ~
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. 
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. 
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 
7 The lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. 
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on earth. 
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shield with fire. 
10 "Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth." The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. 

Being silent and seeking solitude go hand in hand with Being Still. By seeking refuge in silence, through the act of being in solitude, we are able to practice being still. There is much to gain by being silent with God and living in solitude with God. It allows us to discern His truth. It is not enough to just pray, or just have faith, we need to quiet ourselves to nothingness in order for God to be everything for us. 

Before Jesus began his ministry, he wandered into the desert for 40 days and nights to commune with God the Father, being tested by the wilderness and Satan... 

~ Mark 1:9-13 ~
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.. 
10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 
13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waiting on him.

~ Luke 4:1-4 ~
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread."
4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"

By the end of Jesus' 40 days, he became nothing. Jesus went 40 days without food or drink. He persevered by the Spirit alone. God spiritually strengthened Jesus, instructing him by the Spirit. Satan had no chance against the Son of God, underestimating the Spirit of God residing within Jesus. While Jesus was at his weakest physically, having fasted for 40 days, he was full of life given to him by the Spirit. The way Jesus was able to resist Satan's temptation was through the spiritual strength gained in his solitude, silence, and being still with God. God protected him by showing Jesus His truth, by sending His angels to watch over him. God was able to do this because Jesus became nothing in his solitude, in his silence, and in his stillness during those forty days. This is true for us, too. We cannot survive with food and drink alone. We need the guidance of the Spirit to truly live a meaningful life. We must be nothing in order to be everything. 

How do we strip down to nothing? 
Confess your sins. 
Eliminate all barriers between you and God. Without separating ourselves from our sins that build walls between us and God through repentance, we are unable to attain the sanctuary within God's arms.

~ Matthew 3:2 ~
2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

Finding solitude allows us to purge our inner demons and sins before God. By being truthful with ourselves we are able to take the first step in being naked before God. Only through sheer transparency are we able to hear God speak to us. If we don't distance ourselves from the daily noise generated by our interactions with family, friends, electronics, technology, work, projects -- anything that keeps us plugged into to everything but just ourselves -- we make it easy for denial and ignorance to overcome our truth. When we throw ourselves into busy work for the sake of not dealing with our true feelings, thoughts, dreams, nightmares, regrets, or mistakes, we are preventing ourselves from becoming better people and finding honest Joy and Peace within our chaotic world. When we repent, purge everything we have been compartmentalizing, we are able to wipe the slate clean before God. Once that slate is wiped, we have nothing. When we have nothing, God has a place to build His kingdom within our hearts in the hopes of sharing it with others. His kingdom can only be built on truth, and truth can only come when we are honest about who we are to ourselves, therefore being honest with God. We can't hide from Him, He knows all. But, when we deny our truth to ourselves we have closed the door on Him, and His truth is unable to permeate our lives. 

God calls each of us to solitude. What form is His discretion. For Paul, he was sent to a place where he could not converse with fellow apostles: 

~ Galatians 1:15-18 ~
15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased
16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, 
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabi, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days;

For me, I was called to the wilderness for the majority of the years I stayed home with my child. The theme of the wilderness is very prevalent within the New Testament. The wilderness is the representation of a spiritual dry spell. A time when God calls us to solitude for the purpose of us to wait on Him. During this time, God uses our solitude to reform our ways. For Paul, it was to retrain his thinking of how to minister. We all make mistakes. We all get caught up in things we shouldn't. Sometimes God needs to shift our thoughts, change our hearts, and help us forget all of the wrong we have learned. This is all in an effort to mold us into a being that is dependent on Him and in His ways. 

I needed to be retrained as well. I had to shed layers of skin that were smothering the person God needed me to be. This process was incredibly painful. God walked me back in time showing me the mistakes I have unknowingly made from the time I was a child. He showed me how, by decisions I made that I didn't understand, I perpetuated unhealthy habits. Be it mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, I had allowed others to influence parts of me that went against God's will for me. These revelations were countless, though in those moments of my life that I bent myself to these incorrect ways appeared insignificant and minute. It took me until I was thirty to grow a back bone, relax, and trust myself in God wholly, to know who I was and am, and to be confident in showing my true self to the world around me (thus this blog). But it was a process that began in my spiritual boot camp of being a stay at home mom without the means to interact with those of the outside world. 

Was I kept from all human contact? No. I was still surrounded by family and friends; however, during much of that time I was alone with my child, having only a toddler to communicate with on a daily basis. It was a form of isolation that at times felt unbearable. I was waiting for God to allow my circumstances to present freedom to come and go as I pleased, to do and think as I wanted. I didn't have a car to hop into and drive to a location of my choosing on a whim. I wasn't going to work where I could converse with others throughout the day. I spent almost three years not being able to do much of anything outside of my responsibilities as a house wife and mother. To a large degree, I really didn't mind. I am an introvert at heart. I have always appreciated my time alone. And I will forever cherish the time spent with my son during his early years. A true gift from God. What was hard was that this wasn't so much a choice on my part as it was a command of God. When God called me to leave the work force and stay home with my child I didn't realize what I would be giving up. But in giving up what I thought I needed, I gained new perspective on what life should be for me and my family. This time left my mind, heart, and soul available to spend time alone with God. In silence. 

I don't understand God's ways. Quite frankly, I'm unable to unless God chooses to share a nugget of His understanding with me. After I was removed from my silent solitude and placed in an environment that allowed me interaction with others, God did reveal some understanding of His purpose for sending me into the wilderness. And in hindsight, I am able to see the benefits of having been segregated from society. I have learned to quiet my mind and slow my heart through the silence I endured in solitude with God. I am also able to witness God's intervention on my heart as I go to work and share myself with others. As much as I am the same, I am a better and improved version of myself in the image of God. God was able to use my time sequestered to unlearn my wrong thinking, feelings, and ways and replace them with His truth. God is with me now in a way He wasn't able to be before I accepted solitude, found silence, and became still with God. 

I cannot express how wonderfully grateful I am that God chose to spend this time on me. I love Him, I praise Him, I invite Him in everywhere I possibly can. For, with God all things are possible. 
~ Philippians 4:4-7 ~
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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