I have always been an early riser and consider this a bit of a blessing. I have found that in those early morning hours, especially during the period of time leading up to dawn, I am at my best in terms of being able to quiet down, allow myself to be restful, and when so blessed, hear the Spirit speaking to my soul. I thank God for these moments and have learned to count on them for both spiritual nourishment and divine consolation.
I know that not all of you are “morning people.” Studies have shown that some folks are at their best in the evening, or even late at night. If you are one of the people wired in that manner, I hope that you have found a way to be with God during that peak time in your biology. The benefits of such an endeavor are countless.
I want to share an experience I had during one of my pre-dawn quiet times. I think it might serve as an example of how the Lord often speaks to us when we are sensitive to those times when we might most readily hear his voice. This particular experience also points to the reality that the blessed silence is often the venue in which the voice of the Spirit is most audible. At least, I have found this to be so.
One Sunday morning, as is my habit, I arose early. I spent time asking God to speak to me regarding an issue I had been struggling with for some time. As is often the case, my tampering with this problem eventually led me to a state of perplexed paralysis. It was an issue related to how I was to proceed with one aspect of my professional life.
After praying, I sat quietly and gradually began to feel the peace of God fall over me. It was nothing earth shattering and no burning bushes spoke to me, nor did any donkeys give utterance, but I had a palatable sense of God’s presence. This is significant in that it had been months since I had felt any sense of God’s light in my life. It seemed that in my busyness, God had somehow gone on sabbatical. I longed for his touch, even if only brief and subtle. I was, in essence, in a stark period of spiritual dryness.
I had several books at my side that I had been reading prior to my prayer time. I opened one of the books and soon came across these words by the French mystic Francois Fenelon:
Be silent and listen to God. Let your heart be in such a state of preparation that His Spirit may impress upon you such virtues that will please Him. Let all within you listen to Him….
Now comes the good part!
Don’t spend your time making plans that are just cobwebs – a breath of wind will come and blow them away. You have withdrawn from God and now you find that God has withdrawn the sense of His presence from you. Return to Him and give Him everything without reservation. There will be no peace otherwise. Let go of all you plans – God will do what He sees best for you.
Fenelon’s words hit me between the eyes like a Louisville Slugger. I knew immediately what I needed to do, even if it was going to be difficult. Like Abraham and Sarah, I had grown impatient waiting on God’s timing and gave birth to an Ishmael. I needed to return to God, wait in silence, and trust his promise of an Isaac. Basically, in my own anxiety and uncertainty of potential outcomes, I took charge of the situation and ended up at what seemed a dead end.
Trusting God to guide us and lead us to the place we need to go is not an easy proposition. This is especially true for those of us who are used to “making things happen.” I made the decision that Sunday morning to let the entire project go. I put it in God’s hands and, in his time, not mine, the situation worked out better than I could have ever manipulated on my own.
Of equal significance was the validation of the importance of encountering the “Sacred Silence” in my spiritual life. My hectic schedule and my mental strategy sessions had left little time for being still. I now make silent meditation or, if you prefer, contemplative prayer, the foundational practice of my spiritual life. If I neglect this practice, I rapidly become like a thirsty elephant trumpeting around a dried up waterhole.
Countless Christians have stressed the importance of regularly entering this sacred space of blessed silence, for it is in this space that we are renewed, refreshed, and more significantly, encounter that “still, small voice” that carries the message of our true source of knowledge and inspiration. I am especially drawn to the words Quaker writer Thomas Kelly, in his classic work A Testament of Devotion, uses to describe that inner sanctum that is so vital to our spiritual formation:
Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life. It is a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth a casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men. It is a seed stirring to life if we do not choke it. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And He is within us all.
Kelly’s words are truly powerful and hold much meaning if one takes the time to really reflect upon what he is getting at. One-third of the Godhead has been placed in each of us, and is there for our guidance, direction, and assistance. It is for this reason that Christ told us: Abide in me….
However, we have to learn to be still enough to hear his voice and, further, be able to understand the language he speaks. This process takes time and discipline and only you can make the decision to begin and apply the will to continue. The question is: Will you do it?
Over the next few days, spend time examining your own life. Are you in a similar predicament? Is there an area where you are spinning your wheels, going nowhere? Go back and meditate on Fenelon’s words, and then go to God in prayer and wait in silence. And please, don’t skip or skimp on the silence. This is the place of quiet; the place of both emptiness and yet fullness; a place of paradox. In this reverberating silence, you will eventually here your answer and, beyond that, find your purpose. It is in this silent space that you will not only hear your song, you will learn how to sing it.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved.