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CADET KIM CHAN writes about her experience and study of the discipline of Solitude and Silence . . .  In a world where we are so busy and so readily accessible, we find it difficult to draw ourselves away from our responsibilities to self and to others and spend time with God reflecting on Him and what He desires to say to us.

Ruth Barton asks her readers to reflect upon the need to focus on silent moments with God to move beyond what we teach, what we preach, what we do, and simply BE in God’s presence waiting upon Him. She says:

“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.”[1] 

 In Celebration of Discipline – The Path to Spiritual Growth, Richard J. Foster states that:

Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds.  We keep up a constant stream of words even if they are inane.  We buy radios that strap to our wrists or fit over our ears so that, if no one else is around, at least we are not condemned to silence.  Silence is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place.  There is solitude of heart than can be maintained at all times.  It is quite possible to be a desert hermit and never experience solitude.[2]

Both these writers have focused on the need to spend time in silence and solitude with God and the reasons why many of us find this spiritual discipline a challenge.  Whether it is due to the demands on our time, our daily duties, or the lack of our willingness to be open to the voice of God, we do not like to spend time alone in complete silence with God.  We find it hard to spend time in silence period; we find quietness awkward and uncomfortable but when we think of spending time in silence with God and in seeking His will there is another dynamic added; one that makes us more uncomfortable.

In reading these writings, I realized that there is an advantage in taking the time to be in silence and solitude; to withdraw oneself from the chaos of our lives and relish in the quiet and stillness of who God is and what He is saying to us.  

Along my spiritual walk, there have been numerous times when I have found myself in solitude, seeking God’s voice and guidance for my life when I have needed to hear from Him.

While solitude was a spiritual discipline that I was comfortable with, the addition of silence was a challenge.

Most of us are not very good at sitting with longing and desire – our own or someone else’s.  It feels tender.  It feels vulnerable. If feels out of control.  It is a place where one human being cannot fix or fill another, nor can we fix or fill ourselves.  It is a place where only God will do.[3]

Silence, for me, produces a sense of vulnerability and being out of control.  Silence has never been easy for me to accept and I feel that it is in response to my current culture where silence is awkward and is almost unacceptable. 

Throughout this experience I have become more in tune with my need to empty my mind from outside sources and ask God to fill my mind with thoughts of Him and in doing so, allow Him to speak through the silence.  I long to have a more intimate relationship with God and while I am still experiencing shortcomings with my attempts in solitude and silence, I believe that there are many blessings in store for me as I keep striving to let go of my concerns and allow God to take over.

Solitude has, in the past, and will continue to be a driving force for my spirituality.  The opportunities to sit by myself and allow God to speak to me are remarkable and, I pray, will continue. 

The addition of silence will continue to be introduced to my spiritual life and I pray that in the future God will use this time to speak to me in that still small voice; a gentle whisper.

As part of their Spiritual Formation class, first year cadets (the Friends of Christ) were asked to choose a spiritual discipline to research and practice, and to submit an essay about that experience.  This essay by Cadet Kim Chan is about her readings and experience with the discipline of Silence and Solitude.

[1] Ruth Barton, Sacred Rhythms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 31.

[2] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline The Path to Spiritual Growth (United States: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978), 96.

[3] Ruth Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 20.

Cadet Kim Chan comes to us from Newfoundland and is a part of the Friends of Christ session.  She has been known to play the tuba and eat M ‘n’ M’s (although not at the same time!).