This past Saturday, I was challenged to spend 3 hours in silence and solitude, just listening. The challenge came at a prayer retreat led by Alan Fadling, the author of one of my favorite books, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus' Rhythms of Work and Rest. Before our time of solitude we asked ourselves, "What do I bring to this day? What stressors, what questions, what concerns, what anticipation?" Then we asked God if there was anything he had for us. So I headed into my time away with the awareness of where I was at emotionally and with the insight that God was inviting me to soak in his peace.
Now for some honesty, I was super excited to attend this retreat when I signed up. I attended a 2 day retreat co-led by Alan last year and thought it was amazing. Plus I love Jesus so a whole day just to focus on prayer sounded awesome. But back to my confession...that morning I didn't feel like going. I was tired. The day before was an awesome, busy day and I need recovery time after busier days. The idea of staying home in a quiet house was so appealing. However, I had encouraged friends to go with me so not showing up to a day that was going to be laid back and refreshing because I was tired didn't seem like a good plan. So I went and I'm glad I did.
One distinction shared with us today is that prayer is not a task you complete; it's a relationship you invest in. During my 3 hours I was telling God that I didn't know why I fight spending intimate time with him. I love time with him, I love the peace he gives me, I love the way he quiets my mind and settles my soul. I love feeling his love and expressing love back to him. I love that he knows me so well and doesn't need me to fill him in on back story or why I'm reacting a certain way. And yet I will avoid designated time carved out just to listen to him. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I will neglect God; I spend my days talking to him--asking for insight, direction and wisdom, sharing my heart, requesting help for friends in need and I read my Bible most days. But when it comes to sitting in silence and solitude, I let that time get squeezed out by things nowhere near as important.
As I shared all of this with God he gave me the coolest example. He reminded me that my husband and I have made it a priority to not let our marriage devolve into simply being roommates. We don't want to get so good at co-existing in the same house, doing the necessary things to keep the household running but neglecting focused time with each other geared to build intimacy. Rick and I make a point of spending time together alone. No TV, no computers, just talking, listening, playing, being open with who we are and where we are at in all areas of our lives. We do this most days. Sometimes it's several hours; sometimes it's much shorter. But we know that without this we will miss out on connection that we both love and feel refueled by.
This is a great practice for any marriage, but even bigger than that--God invites us into the same thing with him. As I sat by the lake I felt God assure me of two things. The first is that no matter what, his love for me is constant; I can't make him love me less. The second is that he's not going anywhere; he will never abandon or give up on me. But an invitation came with that assurance, and it's an invitation for all of us. It's an invitation to make a practice of spending focused time alone with him so that I'm not simply co-existing in the same place with him. God invites us into a deeply intimate relationship. One where he is able to speak words of love and healing to us and we are able to lean in and know him at a deeper level. He longs for this level of connection with us that can't happen in quick exchanges tossed out as we go about our busy lives. He knows this will refuel us and give us peace.
God doesn't want to be the friend I bump into at church; he doesn't want to be the neighbor I chat with over the fence. Instead he invites me (and you) over and over to come away, to fall into his arms, to be part of a great love story.