I get a lot of feed back from people in regards to their seeming inability to be able to carve out quiet time for themselves. Taking that another step further, I had the opportunity last week to present a holistic health message to nurses and managers in the skilled nursing facility setting, and self-care is a big concern. We can all struggle with making space or creating margin in our lives, but it is imperative for over all physical and emotional health. Even beyond that, we are spiritual beings who need to be connected to the source of our strength and to know what to pursue and what to relinquish. The development of a spiritual practice helps us to navigate those questions so we can live fully in our humanity.
I have been a long time fan of Henri Nouwen. Henri, who is now deceased, has been a beloved author, priest, and world famous spiritual counselor and guide, who’s writings continue to inspire and re align his readers in profound ways.
I am re- reading his book Spiritual Direction and I was struck by this;
Developing ears to hear God takes time. We all have strong resistances to listening. First of all, we find it very hard to create empty spaces in our lives and to give up our occupations and preoccupations, even for a while. We suffer from a fear of the empty space. We are so concerned with being useful, effective, and in control that a useless ineffective, and uncontrollable moment scares us and drives us right back to the security of having something valuable to do.
I know that for myself, when I am taking my daily morning time to be alone and meditate, I can feel as though I am “wasting” time and my mind will begin to fill with chatter. Thoughts of my to do list, the kids activities, the bathroom that needs cleaned….whatever, will start to infiltrate my mind until I push them back and give myself permission and encouragement to be still. The truth is, I cannot go very many days with out long periods of alone time to start my day.
The morning spiritual practice is so integrated into my life, it is as if I am cutting off my right arm or not drinking water when I defer it at all. The more you are intentional about it, the more deeply it embeds into who you are. The Bible says that Jesus retreated often and the New Testament talks about “praying continuously”. For me this looks like at least an hour in the morning of reading the Bible, in my head or out loud, and writing my prayers out. I have a designated space in my bedroom where I do this. When I am exceptionally pressured, I set my alarm and do not allow my self to get pulled away into a different direction. I often times write one scripture or a short theme out on a post it note and refer to it through out the day. Any time I start to get anxious about any situation, I pause and read it and it puts me back into The Vine (John 15:5), the source of strength. As you are intentional about creating this time for yourself, others will begin to understand, respect and give you your space- but that will only happen after you show consistency in guarding it and making it a priority.
Do we want to see the truth in our lives? Maybe we don’t….maybe it is easier if we don’t. Henri went on to say this in the same chapter; Resistance in the form of preoccupation and distraction often prevents us from seeing the truth of our lives, hearing God’s voice and living a spiritual life. To listen with obedience to the voice of God requires building up a resistance to all the other voices that compete for our attention.
I know for myself, the spiritual practice continues to be a persistent intentional routine, but it has also become a deep place of peace that no other thing or person on earth can replicate. I have had times where I knew I was running, so to speak, from hearing the voice of truth in my life. It leaves one empty and shallow. If we are going to tap into who we really were created to be and tap into the things we were expressly created to do in this short time called life, we are going to have to spend time with The Creator.
I encourage you to create empty spaces in your life. Decide to swim against the water of culture and abide in the place you were designed to be. This is not time wasted, it is value added. Do not be afraid of the quietness, be intentional and begin your spiritual journey<3
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