Christian Life, Spiritual Disciplines

The Importance of Doing and Saying Nothing

I was born a talker. Okay, that’s not literally true, but my parents have a video of me at my second birthday party and I am just talking up a storm, full sentences and everything. It’s actually quite amusing to see full sentences come out of a tiny child with a ridiculously high pitched voice. Not much changed as I grew older (besides me getting slightly bigger and my voice getting slightly less high pitched). I got a little bit shyer (or wiser maybe? Not sure.) after putting my foot in my mouth a few times, but I never lost my love of talking.

My husband is the exactly opposite. I think he could go a week without us speaking and he would be okay with it. He’s the one introvert in a family of extremely extroverted people. We even each other out in that way. I’m liable to talk too much, he’s liable to talk too little, so together I suppose we even out to talking the perfect amount.

“You Don’t Always Have to Talk…”

Zach told me that once (maybe more than once). Over time, I’ve learned that sometimes we can just be, and that’s okay. A great example of this is when we’re in the car. When I first moved out to Oregon and we started driving around together, I would always try to keep the conversation going. Mostly it ended up being a one side conversation because Zach had nothing to add, but I would keep it up because the silence felt weird.

The other day I realized I don’t do that as much. Now I’m okay with the silence. I still prefer talking, but the silence doesn’t bother me or send me on a search for something to fill it. I think that’s a good thing and means I’ve grown in my relationship with Zach. It’s okay for the two of us to just be together without having to actually do or say anything.

God Says the Same Thing

I think that God wants the same thing with us. He wants us to just be okay with just being with him. There’s even a whole section of Scripture about that in John chapter 15. In verses 1-17, the word “remain” or “abide” (depending on your translation) is used 11 times in those 17 verses.  What does that mean? According to Merriam Webster, “abide” means, “to remain stable or in a fixed state.” Simply put, we’re just supposed to be where we are.

Jesus tells his disciples (and us) to remain in him and he will remain in us, just like a branch remains a part of a vine. It doesn’t have to try to do anything, it just is. The passage continues on and says that this “abiding” or “remaining” is essential for us to have fruitful lives. Abiding seems to be at the center of the Christian life, based on this passage.

 

But How Do We Do That?

How do we do something that’s ultimately not about doing? In our busy world, how can we just be? I’m not going to lie, I think it’s tough. It’s tough because our lives are all about what we do and say, even our “spiritual” lives. It’s really easy to take something like the idea of “abiding” and turn it into a doing thing instead of a being thing. How can we avoid that? Practice.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions/goals for this year was to learn more about Christian meditation and the practice of solitude and silence (which is hard for me giving the love of talking thing). I’ve read a decent amount about it, but I’ve never really put it into practice much. However, I committed to working on it. I’ve been spending a few minutes every morning reading a Psalm and then taking a few minutes to meditate on it. It’s been a really great experience, but not at all what I expected.

Abiding Isn’t Sexy

I’ve been at it eight months now, so I guess I’m still a relative beginner. I’m definitely far from an expert on the subject, but still, it hasn’t been the esoteric, mystical experience that I sort of hoped for. It’s actually been pretty hard and sometimes pretty boring.

I was hoping to get to the place where I could identify God’s voice in my head. I still feel very far from having that one down. I thought I would start hearing more words or phrases from God that would have some sort of impact on my life. I don’t really feel like I’ve gotten any great new revelations from what I’ve done. I wanted to be able to quiet my mind so I could listen to what God has to say as a part of my prayer practice. I have yet to experience any words from God, visions, or anything else exciting. Most of the time I’m still struggling to not think about things I need to get from the store or a meeting I’m going to later in the day.

Despite all that, I think it’s been really good for me, just like being silent with my husband is good for me. It’s not about doing, it’s just about being together. Even though it’s not exciting, I’m taking those few minutes a day to just be with God. I’ve started to realize in the last couple of weeks that even if that’s all I get out of it, I’m okay with that. It’s just a time of being, not a time of doing or even hearing or experiencing.

What About You?

Are you “abiding” with God? Maybe you are, and it’s looks vastly different from what I’ve outlived above. Great! I’d love to hear how you “abide.” What things do you find difficult? What things help you to just slow down and spend time with God?

If not, why not start today? I’m not asking you to rearrange your schedule to spend an hour everyday intensely praying or anything like that. Even if it’s just 5 minutes of silence, that’s a start. Everybody can find 5 minutes a day to just sit and just be (without your phone). You don’t have to pray anything specific. You don’t necessarily have to meditate. Just spend 5 minutes with God.

When/if you do this, don’t have super high expectations that it’s going to completely revolutionize your spiritual life. Just like with Zach and I, even if it doesn’t seem like anything’s happening, it’s still a valuable part of your relationship with God and a way to grow closer to him. Who wouldn’t want that?

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  1. […] theme for this week, mostly because I already wrote a blog post about meditation (you can find that here) and because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about another subject this past […]

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