We’re coming up on the third week of Advent. It’s nearly time for the pink candle! Which means that by now, if we’re doing Advent right, we should have met God a time or two in the silence of this season.
What I don’t mean by that is that there is a perfect way to do Advent. Not at all! What I do mean is that this season is for us! It was created for us so that we might pull back long enough to reflect on what’s coming. And what’s coming is no small thing, even if He was packaged that way at the entrance.
This week during my show on Real Presence Radio, I had the honor of doing an hour-long segment on Advent with a local priest and another regular guest. Both will be involved in heading up a silent, Ignatian retreat in the coming months. Even though it’s a ways off, the retreat seemed a natural fit for a talk on Advent, when quiet becomes a necessity if we’re to meet God and hear what it is that He’s trying to tell us.
“But aren’t most people scared of silence or pulling away to be quiet?” I asked the priest. The answer I got in return: Yes, this is often the case, but if they knew they were not going to be alone with themselves, and instead were going to hang out with God, they might approach it differently.
Indeed! Though I’ve become more comfortable with silence — and often crave it — in recent years, I can understand the propensity of some to run the other way when presented with an opportunity to quiet down, to just…listen.
Following through on my question about the fear of silence that many people have, Rachelle, promoter of the retreat, said, “You can’t believe how much God talks when you give Him the chance!”
In other words, we need not be fearful of the quiet. As the priest also noted, “It’s again that difference between loneliness and solitude.”
Loneliness is when we are alone, in the dark all by ourselves. Like a scared child at night who has not yet learned to tap into the antidote to the bogeyman’s powers — God — we flee to our parents’ bedroom and hope they might have a soft word to share, or a soft space in the middle for us to rest if we’re really lucky.
But solitude is something else entirely. In solitude, we are not alone. God is with us, and God is big enough to fill all of the dark spaces that encircle us on a daily basis if we but shift our position just a bit and make room for Him.
And here’s the even better news. Even though retreats are amazing and we should all experience them on occasion (they are just plain good for the soul), we can find this solitude, this quiet reserved for a conversation with God, wherever we are. For example, I started out my week (after dropping off the kids at school) on my bed with a book of Scripture readings. I read some of them and asked God to be with me in the week ahead. I opened my heart to make room for Him. I’ve felt Him with me every day of the week and I know that this orienting myself to God played no small part in that.
Q4U: Where was your favorite quiet “space” this week? How did you prepare for it? What did it feel like to spend some time there?