NEW SERIES: FINDING WINTER’S REST
The clocks have changed, and Christmas is around the corner. The commercial merry-go-round is gathering pace, and stress levels are rising.
Before we get swept into the festive rush, and its attendant anxieties, let’s take a step back and focus on a different model. For out in the countryside the season has changed, leaves are falling, daylight hours are receding, and quietness is descending on the land.
Despite appearances, the winter-rest of the natural world is not the rest of inactivity, for the depths of the earth contain the seeds of new life, the promise of spring. This seasonal stillness is the powerful rest of recuperation and renewal.
LET'S BUILD OUR OWN INTERNAL ‘WINTER’S REST’
Let’s pay attention; let’s get in step with Creation. We need to learn the lessons of winter before exhaustion sets in, relationships splinter, and the stress-wound grows. We need to take action to still the soul with its incessant demands, to quiet the mental and emotional noise.
In order to really celebrate the festivals ahead, and deal with the curved balls life throws at us, we need to discover the power of silence. The sacred silence which means that for a while we put down our ‘to do’ lists, our anxieties and concerns, our many preoccupations, and sit before the Lord, allowing Him to minister to us. The silence which means we come away feeling renewed and refreshed, having encountered the Source of Life.
It will take practice, the habitual clamour of the soul won’t be stilled overnight. But it’s worth persevering—to build our own internal ‘winter’s rest’.
But the LORD is in His holy temple:
let all the earth keep silence before him.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from Him comes my salvation.
[Psalm 62:1 ESV]
Silence doesn’t come easily to this modern generation. Some are unnerved by it, others despair of ever finding it in lives lived on the run. Our western society is filled with noise: traffic, voices, household appliances, radios, televisions and smart-phones, all competing for our attention. The blessing of modern technology has its downside—constant background sound.
But there are moments scattered through the day when noise subsides and quiet descends: early morning before the household is up; a mid-morning coffee break; in the store car park after shopping; a delay in a doctor's surgery; at a red light or in a traffic jam; waiting for the pick-up on taxi duty; an early arrival for an appointment; midnight hours when sleep deserts; a solitary evening by the fire…
These interludes can be irritations in our over-crowded days, or embraced as heaven-sent opportunities for refreshment. For those who struggle with silence, taking these mini breaks are a pathway to embracing longer periods; for those who long to just stop, these intervals are a life-saver. And for all of us engaged in the Christmas rush, they are opportunities to regroup and allow peace to descend.
TIME TO LISTEN
These occasions of external quiet, are opportunities for internal silence, opportunities to meet with God. And rather than being times when we come with our list of needs and desires, they are times when we can still the demands of the soul and listen.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah, burned out and dejected, returning to Horeb, the place of covenant. There he met God. The Lord came present to him—not in the earthquake, wind or fire, but in a still small voice. The word translated ‘still’ also has the meaning of ‘silence’, and the NRSV tells it this way:
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains
and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;
and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out
and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
[1 Kings 19: 11-13]
Embracing silence, we can begin to hear the voice of God. It maybe indistinct at first, like tuning in to a radio frequency, but if we persevere, His voice will sound quite clearly.
As autumn turns into winter, let's fall in step with Creation and allow its quiet to seep into our souls. And then let's listen...
THIS WEEK'S GRACE RHYTHM
"In silence we will find new energy and true unity. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything."
"The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. In that silence, He will listen to us; there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice."
"Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God."
In addition, make the most of the natural pauses permeating your day. Practise stilling the soul (get very quiet inside) and listen. Expect an encounter with the One who loves you.
To read more about silence, click on the link below:
SPIRIT-LED WITHDRAWAL: THE RHYTHM OF SOLITUDE
NEXT WEEK: WINTER GRUMBLES
Living in harmony with the season...
GET IN TOUCH!
[Photo credits: Eric Jacob (tree); Kristina Flour (woman); James Lee (two birds) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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