Read Only If You Are Busy

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) 

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9 thoughts on “Read Only If You Are Busy

  1. An entire generation of us has been trained to measure our spiritual lives by what we do: Having a “quiet time” with God meant praying through a prayer list (and checking off the answered prayers), memorizing a verse, reading x chapters from the Bible, perhaps filling in some blanks in a Bible study book or journaling about the content of what we’d just read… Unplugging from all of that spiritual activity about God to actually pursue God can contain some of those same components, but with an entirely different focus and emphasis. Silence (missing from the frentic non-quiet “quiet times”) is a way of surrendering our own ideas about what pursuit of God is like, and being willing to listen to Him. (And just as in many other areas, Nouwen is SO right – silence will also inevitably lead us to discover the fragmentation existing in our own souls.)

    Being quiet is hard!

  2. Michelle,You express where many of us are or have been quite well.In particular, I related to your opening words, "An entire generation of us have been trained to measure our spiritual lives by what we do…"  How very true!  As you suggest—even time alone with God has been defined by activity.Thanks very much for this good comment. 

  3. I like the thoughts on lectio divina:

    THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation which is the Scriptures.

    Deep listening for God in our hearts is a quieting experience.

    Peace.

  4. I think the first post was a bit garbled. I’m trying again.

    I like these thoughts on lectio divina:

    THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation which is the Scriptures.

    Deep listening for God in our hearts is a quieting experience.

    Peace.

  5. I really like what was said about planning solitude time. I have so many things that go on during my day (like trying to work on my mid-term English paper, for example) that I often forget the blessing that simply being quiet in the presence God brings. The peace that having begun and ended my day with God is irreplaceable, no matter how much I need to work on my English paper!

  6. Brittany,I can appreciate your wrestling with this right in the middle of assignments like your English paper.  Let me encourage you to do what seems to work for you as a student.  While the need is there, your schedule is very different than so many non-students.Thanks for your comment. 

  7. Jim, Great title!….You certainly grabbed me while my keyboard was covered in paper and my mind was noisy with the things to get done in the next 40 mins trying to get away for 5pm. I love the Nouwen quote as well. Though Im afraid Ill have to get back to work now. 😉
    Have a great Weekend Jim, Liam