Depth Through Discipline, Part 1: Solitude and Silence
How are the New Year’s Resolutions coming?
I, for one, have a horrible track record of going through the painstaking process of setting meaningful and God-honoring annual goals, only to let them ultimately disappear into the archives of my journal.
I always start out strong. I’m a rock star every January. Come March-ish, though, my goals are fading from the forefront of my mind. By May, I’m super busy with end of the school year stuff. And by July, I’m all like, “What goals? Let’s go to the pool.”
In November, I’m praying and seeking God about the upcoming year, only to look back through my old journal and go, “Wow! Those were some GREAT goals I set last year. I really should have followed through with that! “
And I start all over again. Year after year, pretty much.
Not this year.
This year, I’m doing things a little differently. I’m breaking my goals into monthly mini-goals, to keep from losing focus and/or getting overwhelmed, the combination of which happens to me daily.
One of my four main areas of focus this year is Depth in My Walk with God Through the Spiritual Disciplines. And I’m using Richard J. Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth* as an outline.
Now, because I have this tendency to try to FIX EVERYTHING ABOUT MYSELF AT THE EXACT SAME TIME (see previous comment about getting overwhelmed) I had this cool idea to concentrate on one spiritual discipline each month. So, imagine my delight when I counted the disciplines and saw there are exactly twelve! Perfect.
In case you are not familiar, here are The Spiritual Disciplines, as outlined by Foster:
The Inward Disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting and Study.
The Outward Disciplines: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission and Service.
The Corporate Disciplines: Confession, Worship, Guidance and Celebration.
Month One: Fasting
Just so you know, every January, I usually do some kind of fast. This January, I did as well. Since I’m currently, studying the book of Daniel, I decided to do a 21-Day Daniel Fast. I didn’t blog about it, because—well, it appears in scripture that God frowns upon such things.
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
So, that’s that.
Month Two: Solitude
Obviously, I’m not going in order—just trying to pay attention to God and where He’s leading me.
Foster merges solitude and silence together into one discipline: both finding moments where we are literally in silence, away from noise and distraction, and also, remaining silent with our speech.
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.
We’re only five days into February, so I don’t have a lot of insight on solitude right now. Mostly, I’ve spent the last week noticing how much I talk. I talk a LOT, you guys. I’ve always known this about myself. But I just never noticed it like I do now, in light of spirituality and depth with God.
Here are a few things I do:
- If you ask me how I’m doing, I assume you were not just greeting me politely, but rather, you really wanted to hear about my day. So I tell you about my day. In great detail.
- I notice everything, and I have an opinion about everything I notice—the snow, my shoes, the guy over there—and I’m happy to share it with you.
- In fact, I will say almost anything that pops into my mind, as long as it’s not rude or mean or inappropriate.
- I am constantly making up puns and combining words that I think are hilarious together. And then I laugh at my own hilarious jokes. Mostly, I’m the only one laughing.
(To my credit, I’m pretty darn funny.)
- If you or I say something, and that something reminds me of the lyrics of a song, I will break out in song, right there, in front of God and everyone.
(Our neighbor recently said to my daughter, “Your mom sings a lot.”)
(I do not believe this was meant to be a compliment.)
- If you share your story with me, I will listen attentively. I promise. And then, I will respond with a story of my own to show you I understand/empathize/relate. Sometimes my stories are long. Sometimes I have more than one story. Sometimes that story will remind me of something funny and I’ll have to tell you that funny thing. Sometimes that story will remind me of a song and I’ll have to sing it.
…many words mark the speech of a fool. Ecclesiastes 5:3b
- I cannot, for the life of me, refrain from telling you something funny. If it’s funny, I must tell you, or I will DIE.
- If you are my child or my husband and you do something I disagree with, I will explain to you, in great detail, all the reasons why that is a bad idea. All the reasons. I will keep explaining until I am certain you understand my point. Or until you stab out your eyes with a fork. Whichever comes first.
- If I do or say something that you misunderstand, I will defend myself until I am absolutely sure you know my intent. Or you stab your eyes out with a fork.
Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit, simply because it puts the stopper on all justification. One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier.
Richard J. Foster
(In my defense—see? Even NOW I defend myself!—I am home alone and mostly silent all day while the kids are at school. And then I spend the first 30-ish minutes after school listening to my chatty children talk over themselves to tell me about their days. So, all of the above speech patterns occur if you are my husband in the evening, or you encounter me in a social situation, or you are a Target cashier, or you call me on the phone and I actually answer it. The poor victims of my speech patterns of late are all the nice people involved in building or selling my house. I’m sorry, BTW, if you are in a hurry when you encounter me, because I might hold you hostage until I use all my words!!)
So, basically, I’ve decided I have a Faulty Mouth Filter. It works pretty well with the quality of words I use. But it fails completely with the quantity. Also, sometimes when I sing, I am a little pitchy.
I believe this is why I prefer to interact with humans through the written word rather than the spoken word. I can look down and see the actual word count, and then go back and delete half of it. You have no idea how many times I want to go back and delete half of a conversation I have had, as I walk away.
It’s almost all the time
I can definitely see why God may have wanted to address Solitude/Silence first.
So, basically, I’m thankful I have the entire month to work on this.
Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
Proverbs 10:19 NLT
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Are you sure we weren’t separated at birth? I swear, we were. I’m not sure I could add anymore to what you said — probably could — but since I can edit this comment, I will refrain. =)
Good stuff! Lots to ponder. I don’t break out in song, though. In my head, I do, but not in public. I mean, unless I’m with family then all bets are off and I might have my own concert.
I have always known we share a special bond. It just got deeper.