I used to be a long-distance runner before injury got the better of me and I was forced to hang up my running shoes. When I first started out at the ripe old age of 40, I learned very quickly that it wasn’t about being the fastest out of the gate, rather it was about enduring the race and finishing stronger than you started.
I was blessed to have an excellent coach who tamed my instinct to run too fast at the start; she must have told me a hundred times, “distance running isn’t a race, it’s endurance.” So, I learned how to find my pace, the rhythm that worked for me. I had to allow other runners to pass me and not get too concerned. Invariably I would eventually pass them further along the line. It was about keeping my eye on the goal, the finish line, and doing what I needed to do to finish strong.
There were certain things we could do to improve our endurance, one of them was to keep well hydrated - all the time not just on race day. I was never one to drink much water, so it took a while for me to get with the program. However, once I did I found that I acquired a real taste for it, in fact I still do. My lime green S’well water bottle goes with me everywhere!
I am just entering my tenth year of vocational ministry. Like running, I came to it rather late. When I graduated Bible College I was excited to get out there and get going. I poured my heart and soul into everything I was asked to do. I had no boundaries and my answer to every request was yes!
However, I quickly found that I couldn’t do it all and my “saviour” complex was really getting a battering. What I didn’t know was how to slow down, how to pace myself. I looked around me and most of my fellow ministers were much like me – running hard and running fast.
I entered the cycle of do, do, do… crash; do, do, do… crash. Let’s be honest, we all know that well.
Then I heard from a young adult in our church, who takes herself off three times a year for a silent retreat. As she was telling me about her journey, my spirit leapt within me. The thought of having 48 hours of silence and solitude appealed to me like water to a thirsty runner. I wasn’t sure if I could keep quiet that long, but I was so desperate to slow down and hear from God I was willing to try it.
Our world is so loud, so busy and so distracting. I was finding it hard to keep up the pace and hear from God. Yes, I spent time with him every day, but not extended time, not time in silence just listening.
So earlier this year I headed over to a small island retreat just a short ferry ride away from Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver. I spent 48 hours in complete silence and solitude. I rested, I walked, I read, I prayed, but most of all I listened! And boy did God speak to me. It was the most wonderfully refreshing time I have ever had, just me and Papa. I had the freedom to simply: “Be still and know that I am God.”
I determined to make this a regular practice and part of the rhythm of my life and returned in May. I was not disappointed and was met by the Lord at the core of my being.
An interesting side effect is that I now crave silence and solitude when things are getting full. Just like I got a taste for water, I now have a taste for silence and solitude. I have even turned off my car radio so that when I am driving I get some silence. My car has actually become a sacred space.
My hope is that as I incorporate silence and solitude into my life they will help me go the distance in ministry and leadership. That I will endure the race set before me and finish stronger than I started!
The world will confuse you. Silence will speak more to you in a day than the world of voices can teach you in a life time. Find silence. Find solitude – and having discovered her riches, bind her to your heart.
Frances J. Roberts (Come Away My Beloved, Barbour Publishing, 2002)