Busy. That is the word that describes most of us. We have a lot going on. Much to do. It may be your job. It may be responsibilities with your children. It may just be the culture in which we live.
Not long ago, someone asked me what Charlotte and I were doing with our time now that our children are grown and either live away or are in college. I didn’t have an answer. Yes, it is very different. No, I don’t see huge chunks of time where we have nothing to do. We tend to be busy.
Henri Nouwen speaks an important word to such lifestyles. Nouwen was born in Holland and served as a priest and psychologist. He taught at several universities and wrote over twenty books before his death. Most of these book have to do with the spiritual life. Nouwen also worked at L’Arche, a community that serves the mentally handicapped.
In Making All Things New, he wrote the following.
To bring some solitude into our lives is one of the most necessary but also most difficult disciplines. Even though we may have a deep desire for real solitude, we also experience a certain apprehension as we approach that solitary place and time. As soon as we are alone, without people to talk with, books to read, TV to watch, or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens up in us.
This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force….
This can make the discipline of solitude all the more important. Solitude is not a spontaneous response to an occupied and preoccupied life. There are too many reasons not to be alone. Therefore we must begin by carefully planning some solitude.
Five or ten minutes a day may be all we can tolerate. Perhaps we are ready for an hour every day, an afternoon every week, a day every month, or a week every year. The amount of time will vary for each person according to temperament, age, job, lifestyle, and maturity.
But we do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him…
(Cited in Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, pp. 95-96)