2 Ways that Silence and Solitude Lead Us
by Mark Votava
As I think about silence and solitude, I am drawn to the mystery of God. It has been my experience that God cannot be figured out. We can put words to our experience, but nobody has a monopoly on God’s mystery, love and beauty. Sometimes it is even hard to believe in God at all because of the injustice in the world and a narcissistic church.
But through all of this, I believe there is something authentic to be discovered through silence and solitude. In silence and solitude we can discover who we are in our true self, the authentic self that we already are. The narcissistic church hates silence and solitude because it becomes exposed for what it is. And narcissists who profess Christianity are the worst expressions of violence, manipulation, greed and hate the world has ever seen.
Silence and solitude has been a practice that has saved my life from extreme forms of cynicism, anger and apathy. Living in a culture with very little expression of the body of Christ in everyday life, where community is almost nowhere; what does a person do who cares about being an expression of love in the world? I had stumbled into silence and solitude when I was younger because there was really nothing to be a part of. There is very little authenticity in the culture of North America where money, profit and status rule the game.
But what does a person do if they care more about justice, equality and compassion than the dominant narrative? I could care less about money, profit and status. My identity is so much more than that. If I live marginalized by the church and the culture I live in because of this stance, I am willing to pay the price of exclusion, judgment and stigma.
Here are 2 ways that silence and solitude can lead us in the midst of our lives.
1. Move us to embody a relational reality
Christ practiced silence and solitude because he needed to embody a relational reality to those in his local context.
Scripture says, “…he went up on a mountainside by himself…” (Matthew 14:23).
Christ often practiced silence and solitude to embrace reality within the human context he lived in. Christ lived within the real in his humanity. On mountainsides, in gardens, in the desert, on long walks, in lonely places, and in homes; Christ practiced silence and solitude to find an integration with the real. Reality was constantly being revealed through his embodiment of truthfulness in the way he treated others.
Christ was embodying the kingdom of God in his locality through his love for his neighbors. This was how he lived. This is how he died. This is how he grew up.
His humanity would not be separated from embodying the essence of the kingdom of God in his local context. All he had was his local context to experience reality. All he had were the people around him to express his love and compassion.
Christ’s silence and solitude opened him up to this reality. He was one with the real in his humanity and we are called to follow him in our local context. We are called to be his hands and feet in everyday life in the parish. The mystical imagination is constantly revealing reality to us in the place we inhabit together.
Mary Jo Meadow writes, “God is always more than our present concept of God. We must always remain open to receive God’s further self.”
2. Make us more aware of God’s revelations within us and around us
God is always revealing reality to us in all of life. Our silence and solitude makes us more aware of these revelations within us and all around us. Do we have the posture to listen and learn from these revealing revelations in everyday life?
These revelations happen moment by moment in the place we live. But if we are not faithfully present we will never be able to really understand any of them. We are moving too fast and being too loud to be receptive to the ordinary moments of divine revelation.
Mary Margaret Funk states, “Furthermore, although such fearful intimacy continues to overload my emotions on occasions, I nevertheless consider it a privilege to be so wholly known by God… and to abide in a place of truth that, while raw and naked and deeply revelatory of my own abiding weakness, is entirely real.”
If God’s nature is always revelation; our posture should be lived in receptivity as the body of Christ in the parish. Revelations are best understood in the local. Revelations are best understood in the relational context that we share life with others in.
It is like these revealing revelations are blowing in the wind. But we can’t grab them with our hands, we can only experience them in our lives. The condition of our souls depend on our receptivity to these revelations in everyday life.
God will never stop revealing dreams for the earth that we are to be a part of. God will never stop revealing dreams of beloved community. God will never stop inspiring the church to listen in its context of everyday life together. God will never stop living within us in the place we inhabit.
God will never stop teaching us through the ordinary experiences in our lives. God’s revelations are always integrated with the ecology of relational connection. Our silence and solitude integrates us to this ecology. God is calling us to a life of constant inner revelation within us through the mystical imagination in the place we inhabit.
What is one way you have been led by silence and solitude?