Henri Nouwen, beloved writer and theologian, remarked “Silence is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter—the struggle against the compulsions of the false self and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as a substance of the new self.”
A beautiful image that represents this struggle and encounter for me was captured in the photograph with this blog. It was taken on vacation as I traveled by ship through the Inside Passage in Alaska.
As I become still with God, I wrestle with the illusions I learn about myself, others, and the world. At the same time in silence, I meet the one who calls me Beloved! As the awareness of God’s presence changes me, pieces of my false self eventually break away like chunks of glacier ice. As I change, I begin to reflect more of the beauty of God and a bold life emerges. The inside passage is the way to know God and your own soul.
Through silence I release the internal distractions and listen.
I do nothing. There are no wordy prayers. I have learned not to judge myself and the experience, and that God is just happy I am choosing to be with him in this deep way. When I let God take charge, I see my true self.
This spiritual practice has had the most significant impact on my life, and at the same time continues to be the most challenging of all spiritual disciplines.
Solitude and silence requires
- letting go
It is similar to the relationships with those we love. Sometimes we may be afraid of getting hurt or we may want to control the other person. Sometimes we are afraid the other person won’t be there when we need them or listen to the desires of our heart. With human love, we still make commitments knowing we could get hurt. Why not let down the walls to risk knowing God—unconditional love—in this way?
The people who know God well—mystics, hermits, prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator.
— Richard Rohr
Our culture rewards a fast-paced, non-stop lifestyle that can be addictive. This makes it challenging to take a different road. Parker Palmer reminds us that “a leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside him or herself, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”
When we don’t take time to know God and ourselves, we look for affection and affirmation from others, and our insecurities and need for control take front row seats for all to see (whether we recognize it or not).
Most importantly, through solitude and silence, unconditional Love is waiting for you.
- Ask God to show you how to create space and time in your day to just rest with God. Start with just a few minutes each day and focus on your breath.
- Model this practice and encourage those you lead to do the same.
Many ships prefer to travel the Inside Passage, a coastal route that starts in Washington State and extends to the Alaska Panhandle, to avoid the bad weather in the open ocean. By traveling the inside passage with God, the deep relationship of trust formed in the silence will prepare you for all that life brings. Most of all, you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s creations, including your own reflection.
About Joann Blewett
Joann Blewett helps others discern God’s presence and grace in daily life experiences as a Spiritual Director. Spiritual Direction is a contemplative, one-on-one relationship based on God-centered conversation. This is done through attentive listening, asking spiritually formative questions, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Joann holds a Masters Specialization in Spiritual Transformation from Northern Seminary and completed a two-year Spiritual Direction program at Kavanna House. She is a member of Spiritual Directors International.
Previously, Joann was the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna, a nonprofit organization in Bel Air, Maryland, for ten years. She is a graduate of the University of Baltimore (B.A.), is married, and is the mother of three young adults.
I welcome your comments on this post and am open to any thoughts you may have that I can address for a future blog. Please feel free to send your questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.