My husband and I just returned from a vacation to St. John, US Virgin Islands. To say it was wonderful is an understatement. Not only did it offer a slower pace of life and spectacular views, it was also the perfect place and time for the Lord to teach me something I needed to learn.
In the mornings, we would head out to one of the many beaches and find a shady spot to sit. Jason would snorkel first thing while I sat on the beach to relax for a bit. Cell service was spotty on the island when we were out and about. With the British Virgin Islands so close, international roaming was common. We didn’t want to incur international fees, so we decided to carry just one phone for pictures and turn off service.
On the first couple of days, not having a device to connect me to the rest of the world was terribly awkward and uncomfortable. I found myself reflexively reaching over and over for a phone that wasn’t online. There I sat, surrounded by some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, and my instinct was to grab the phone to mindlessly scroll through social media, check my email or play some games.
Looking out over the clear, turquoise water, and listening to the waves against the sand, I was surprised that my nature was to turn to something else rather than taking in God’s creation. I felt Him prompt me to let go of the need for distraction and simply be silent in His presence. I’ll be honest, part of me didn’t want to listen and part of me didn’t think I could slow my brain down enough to do it. But I knew I needed to be obedient and deep inside I discovered a need to slow things down for my spiritual health. And so I began practicing silence.
Many of us are not used to existing in quietness and easily fall into our busy lives with never-ending to-do lists, packed calendars, digital distractions, and racing thoughts. When we sit down to rest, even though our bodies are still, our minds continue to be occupied with all kinds of thoughts. We allow ourselves to be consumed by the world around us, and it spills over into our time with the Lord. We read our Bibles and pray so we can check it off our list before moving on to the next thing.
In her book, Rest. Overcoming Spiritual Fatigue, Marianne Howard shares, “Silence allows us to experience life-transforming concentration on God, and it’s where we create space for God to speak to us. Away from the noise, we can finally listen.” In the psalms, David writes frequently about waiting on the Lord. Psalm 62:5 (NLT) says, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”
This idea of stillness and quiet waiting directly opposes our natural bent to do something and move on quickly to the next item on the list. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, we rush from one thing to another without pause. Yet what does the Lord desire? People who yearn to hear His voice and who wait patiently for the One who offers hope like no other.
I invite you to sit on the beach with me in a shady spot as the breeze dances through the air, doing nothing but marveling at God’s creation and His greatness. We’ll practice silence together, and purposely wait on Him to speak to us, having nothing to distract us from being able to listen to His voice. And as we make space to regularly experience holy silence, our souls will be restored.