Grace in Silence & Solitude
August 3, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
I have asked the men of Oak Hills to read a book with me this summer, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray. I’m drawn to this book because I want to see the grace of God lived out more and more in my life, in my thinking, in my feeling, in my marriage, in my family, in my relationships, and in my work. I hope you are able to pick up a copy and read with me. It will be the launching pad for discussion at our Men’s Breakfast on August 26. In the meantime, I want to use these Touchpoint articles to share some of my reflections as I work through Murray’s book. This is part four.
Last week we considered Murray’s chapter on the “grace of sleep” and how it contributes to a “grace-paced” life. Our sleep habits reveal certain beliefs about God from which we operate. Physical rest is not the only rest that is called for by the Bible. Mental and soul rest are just as vital, as Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still, and know that I am God.” How do we give our minds and souls rest? Murray makes the case for silence and solitude.
Murray begins by outlining the many ways we “fatigue” our minds. There are emotions that fatigue our minds like guilt, greed, anger, vanity, self-pity, and anxiety. Then there are expectations (from others and from ourselves) that weigh on our minds. Of course there is the never ending bombardment from media and technology. Murray states, “Research indicates that Americans are consuming an average of fifteen and a half hours of traditional and digital media each day. That’s seventy-four gigabytes a day uploaded to our minds” (p. 92).
Fifteen and a half hours! A day!
Perhaps you’re wondering does this even matter? Does media usage really fatigue my mind? Murray contends that we are “giving [ourselves] continual mental whiplash as [we] pour stimuli and data into [our] brains from every direction” (p. 92). He goes on to quote MIT professor Sherry Turkle to illustrate how pervasive technology impacts us: “Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel…Even a silent phone disconnects us” (p. 94).
Murray concludes, “I’ve come to realize that digital technology is one of the greatest impediments to a life spent in communion with God” (p. 95). How can we obey Psalm 46:10 when our minds are engaged with and processing data from multiple sources?
What is the antidote for mind fatigue? Murray contends for the classic spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. Murray gives a bunch of practical guidelines for incorporating these disciplines into your life. Silence and solitude are not only accomplished by joining a monastery (an unfortunate caricature of these disciplines). We can and need to incorporate these disciplines into our regular routines of life.
As with all disciplines, silence and solitude are not the end goal. They are a means to the goal of a grace-paced life (i.e. “means of grace”). Extended, intentional time unplugged from the noises of technology provides our minds the focus and energy to “know God;” to read his word without distraction; to meditate on his truth and goodness; to allow these truths to quiet the emotional noises crowding our hearts; to bring peace and rest to our minds and souls.
Want more grace in your life? Take a look at what mind “noises” are fatiguing and distracting your soul. As Murray says, “To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, ‘All our miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone [with God]” (p. 95).