The other day one of my single friends posted this statement on Facebook: “I love listening to silence.”
My response: “I’ve heard of that before.”
As a mom of four children ranging in age from 2 to 23, I can testify that our house never seems empty. Never. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been the only one home and really experienced silence. Even as I type this I can hear three voices talking over each other in an adjoining room.
Yet there is a time when I experience a sense of quiet. It comes at 6:00 in the morning, while everyone else in the house is still sleeping. I slip out of bed and tiptoe to the kitchen. Once I get a pot of coffee going I pull out my Bible, Bible study pages, and a journal. With the sounds of snores coming from the bedrooms I read God’s Word.
I write down Scripture passages. In my journal, I also share what’s on my heart. There I write down my frustrations, worries, and praises—and turn it all over to God.
By the time I hear my husband getting into the shower or my toddler calling “Mama” from her crib, I feel more prepared for the day. Meeting God first reminds me that He is in control. There is nothing I will face that day that will come as a surprise to Him.
As for Bible reading, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a Scripture passage that’s helped me later that very day. It’s like getting a pep talk from a coach before you head into the football game. Our coach, Jesus, knows exactly which “plays” to run and the obstacles we’ll face. He loves to prepare us ahead of time, if we’ll let Him.
There are two things I have to confess, though. First, I haven’t always valued time spent with God. When I was first married with kids, sometimes days would pass without me really thinking about Him. Just as I had to create the habit of exercising and drinking enough water, I had to plan for time with Jesus, my Living Water. I knew if I didn’t figure out a way to set aside time, it wasn’t going to happen.
My planning started when I had a toddler and baby at home. I also babysat for a friend. Because I was caring for little kids all day, I set my alarm clock to get up 15 minutes early. I was afraid the alarm would wake the baby, but it didn’t. I can still remember Scripture verses God spoke to my heart and some of the prayers I prayed for my kids during those early morning hours—prayers I’ve seen answered in the last 20 years.
It was only 15 minutes less sleep, but it did more to help my day than anything else. I became more caring and loving to my family. The little things that used to stress me out didn’t seem as overwhelming. I was also able to find hope and encouragement to share with other moms. As I turned to Jesus, He helped me look beyond my own problems and to reach out to others with a compassionate heart.
My second confession is that this quiet time doesn’t happen every day. (I don’t exercise every day either, though I try!) With a toddler in the house, there are times when she wakes up before I get a chance to slip away. There are also days when I’ve gotten on my computer to “just send one e-mail” and I’ve wasted my quiet time on messages or Facebook.
I can tell when that happens. Something just feels “off” for the rest of the day. My family can tell, too. I’m not as joyful or peaceful about, well, anything.
The power of solitude, prayer, and the study of Scripture can’t be overemphasized. Together they can help us become parents who, like Jesus, are servant leaders.
Yet, as is so often the case, the things that benefit us most are usually the hardest to do.
Give yourself a time-out
Solitude is elusive in our world of busyness and 24/7 communication. At any moment of the day—thanks to my computer and smartphone—people can reach me through phone call, Skype, e-mail, texting, Twitter, and Facebook!
Solitude is countercultural and challenging. It draws us into the very place from which so many of our efforts are designed to help us escape—being truly alone with God without an agenda.
For years my favorite Scripture was Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” I’d recite that verse over and over to remind myself that life wasn’t all about what I did, but also about allowing God to work in my stillness in ways only He could.
I also like the New American Standard Bible version of this verse: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Sometimes the striving comes when things are going well and we don’t want to get out of the flow. Sometimes it comes when we see that the people and things in our lives need attention. We roll up our sleeves and dig in.
Often it doesn’t seem to make sense to stop what we’re doing and turn to God by reading His Word and praying. Yet once you get a few minutes of peace, quiet, and connection, everything changes. It’s like stepping out the back door of your noisy life of to-do lists and relationship demands to breathe some fresh air.
Adapted from Lead Your Family Like Jesus, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2013 by The Center for Faithwalk Leadership/Lead Like Jesus. Used by permission.