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Invitation to Solitude and Silence - A Book Review

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

Do you remember the last time you listened to the birds? Or was it your phone chirping with new notifications? Have you stopped to sit at a public place, just to look around, without pulling out your phone?

The dawn of the smartphone changed the trajectory of our culture. A constant connection with the internet-world, and less connection to the people around us. Always something to be distracted with, our eyes always scanning, yet never beholding.

Does a mom of young kids yearn for silence? Or the one who working full-time, with a busy hockey season on the roll, seek out solitude? Where is the available time to step away from work and responsibilities for practicing stillness with the Lord?

We fear what others will think, what our family will say, will a spouse be supportive and could they manage with me away. It feels selfish. We make excuses. Life is busy. Maybe we are actually just afraid to be silent and still; our identity locked inside what we do. Perhaps we don’t think it’s important or valuable for our lives.

In her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence, Ruth Haley Barton writes, “I believe silence is the most challenging, the most needed and the least experienced discipline among evangelical Christians today.”

And you have to wonder why. In the culture around us, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of voices advocating for solitude. There are always activities to go to, more work to be done, situations in life that need tending to. None of these are bad things, we are called to live full lives, poured out for others in service to the Lord.

But, what are the consequences of a soley hurry-up-and-go lifestyle?

“We are starved for intimacy, to see and feel and know God in the very cells of our being. We are starved for rest, to know God beyond what we can do for him. We are starved for quiet, to hear the sound of sheer silence that is the presence of God himself.”

In the thralls of life, there is fullness, but there can be emptiness, and exhaustion. Here is where healthy rhythms of silence and solitude refresh, restore and reengage us with the Lord, as we rest our bodies, our minds and our souls from the dangerous waters of a hurr-up life, where we can be swept to and fro without any chance at reaching calmer seas; without an anchor to hold us down.

Reading this book caused me to sit down and ponder where my own crashing waves have been carrying me lately. Balancing life, family, work and kids is a full and blessed life. As I stopped to reflect, I was reminded of my longing for solitude and the refreshment it has provided for me in the past; the moments where God has met me, cared for me, led and guided me deeper into who He is.

“The invitation to solitude and silence is an invitation to all of this and the beauty of an invitation is that we really do have a choice.”

I resolved that I want to live a balanced life, and that means choosing to take time to be alone and still before the Lord. Often, for me, that happens daily when I wake up before the kids. It also happens by taking times of retreat, whether for a morning or a weekend, at regular times throughout the year, just to refresh and sit in His presence.

It was during our year of isolation protocol when I needed this so much. I remember Saturday mornings biking out of town to a beautiful gazebo that sits at a cemetery in the prairie fields; earbuds on, journal in hand. A time to sit and relish in His faithful Word, and in His eternal presence. These were some deeply healing times, in the riptides of a chaotic season.

There are many ways to incorporate healthy rhythms of solitude and silence into our life. What does it look like for you?

Have you taken some time lately to reflect on the rhythms and routines of your own life? Have you felt like you can’t catch your breath between moments? Is your body tired?

Take some time to reflect on your habits of silence and solitude. If this is new for you, pick up this book for practical ways to begin a journey into experiencing that rest in Him through a neglected, yet very needed spiritual discipline.


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