Making Time for Quiet
Even though I’m a stay at home parent who intentionally makes place in my life for quiet and peacefulness and I reject any attempts to be hurried along and packing my schedule, I still find it really hard to set aside time for God in the midst of it all. I have a busy, happy life, and I want to squeeze every last drop out of it. This mindset causes me to try to maximize my time and work endlessly on productivity: more ironing, more dishes, more play dates, more trips to the zoo, more date nights. Just, you know, more.
Without even realizing it, little by little, I find myself drifting further and further away from the Father and that true certainty in my heart. I wonder to myself why church doesn’t feel the way I want it to feel or why worship nights are leaving me flat. I wonder why I’m not hearing from God more. And it’s not a crisis of faith or anything deep like that. It’s just a constant feeling of being a little off.
When I was working actively in ministry through volunteering, retreats, and teaching in a religious school, I would give everything in my heart to the cause and then feel burnt out in my private prayer practice. Now that my job is different, I feel like I end up doing the same thing. Like my default is to minimize how important it is to step back and stand still. And then I’m surprised when I feel so off and distant from God.
Bill Johnson of Bethel Church often says, “Jesus is perfect theology.” Whenever I’m feeling like something is off, I try to go back to the Gospels and reflect on Jesus’ actions. His words bring life, but sometimes His actions are what provide the best example for me.
In the Gospel of Mark, in the very first chapter, Jesus gets right to work curing the afflicted, casting out demons, and performing all kinds of miracles. Thirty verses in, He takes a moment to recharge. He doesn’t wait until Chapter 5 or 10 or certainly not 16 chapters to take a break. Right in that first chapter He steps away.
Mark puts it this way,
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
The whole world needed His healing and His presence, but He showed us, in His perfect theology, to make time for solitude and quiet right in the middle of it.
In Matthew, He tells us to do the same:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
It’s not enough to show us by example. Jesus follows it up by offering an incentive of blessing and reward. Of course it’s a Jesus-y, spiritual, heavenly reward that we have to wait until the end of our days for, right?
I don’t think so. I think Jesus gives us all kinds of practical advice in the here and now to keep us going and encourage us toward happiness and purpose. He wants us to enter into quiet to make this journey here worthwhile and rewarding. He desires us, every moment of every day, to connect with the Father because it gave Jesus energy and joy and hope and restoration. He offers that to us as well.
So if it’s so good for us, how do we fit a quiet practice into our daily lives? How do we make it a priority?
I think it’s by making it a priority! And fighting for that time. Our relationship with the Father is just like any other relationship. We have to take time out to remember the other person, spend time with them, invite them with us, make time in our schedules. I’m not saying it’s easy, and that we can just make a single decision that God time will be a priority and like magic it will be. I am saying that we need to work on it and try.
I believe God rewards our efforts in trying.
James has this to say about it:
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Our daily lives can be a bit of a trial. Our busyness and priorities and appointments and schedules can be trying and can wear away at the relationships in our lives. Once again, there’s a promise of a reward though. It’s a concrete thing. Take a step forward, keep going, and it will pay off. Jesus always overflows our life with blessing, and nothing He promises ever falls short. When He talks about this “crown of life” I think He’s talking about an abundant, rich, full life. He wants us to shine and live, really live, and truly inhabit our little place in the world.
With all these rewards, I think trying to make time for quiet can get kind of addictive. When I make a little step forward, like reading a Bible verse every morning, saying a prayer before I drift off to sleep, walking my dog and just breathing in the fresh air and quiet, Jesus follows up and offers me a little taste of heaven. That pushes me to try a little harder and be rewarded even more richly.
I’m not saying it’s easy to take time away or that it’s effortless to always be mindful of that need in my heart. Quite the opposite. It’s a fight every time I do it. But every time I think it becomes a little easier. Once those little moments away start to build up, it becomes a practice, then a habit, then a rhythm in my heart.
So right now, right this second, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say, “I’m trying.” Vulnerability and trust is God’s favorite language I think. Just the admission that it’s hard and you’re trying is really freeing and opens your heart.
Whatever your faith practice, we all need a little quiet and rest. Meditation, repetitive prayer, going for a run without headphones, taking a little longer in the shower. I don’t find that taking a step back has to be particularly Christian or religious. That is just something that really resonates with my heart. But making time to hear yourself think is such an amazing way to get back to your heart, yourself, and your soul.
When we step into these solitary places, we remember who we are. We open our hearts to blessing and joy. And even just a little trying brings a great reward. So take that step away, go to the solitary place, and plug into the beat of your heart. God rewards even the smallest effort and is waiting there to meet us the minute we try.
Post Script: I took this picture in the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, New York a few years ago. It’s an amazing place historically, and a great place to take a step back from the world.