At the urging of a friend and in collusion with an assignment given to my students by another teacher, I have just completed my first foray into an extensive period of silence and solitude. This is a practice that goes along with something that I believe God has been calling me to do, which is start practicing the Spiritual disciplines in order to be obedient to God and make myself available to God for spiritual growth instead of being a hopeful passive bystander in my own development.
I have been starting some of these disciplines, mostly in the form of silence at least 5 times a week. A time where I don’t talk, don’t act, don’t do in front of God but just start training myself to listen to him, listen for his voice. I am out of practice. I find that in times where I’m doing so much for God I sometimes forget that it’s not action without relationship that he wants. My physical acts of worship should not come at the expense of my spiritual acts of worship. In the noise of ministry and life and do-goodingness, I lose track of God’s voice and in that, lose myself and any sense of direction. This leads me to spiral into a cycle of frantic action in order to cover up for my lack of clarity and connectedness to God which in turn leads to less clarity and connectedness to God. You see where this takes me? My soul gets bed-head and sweatpants and stained t-shirt. Ever had that feeling? Like you’re just a mess on the inside and you need to get it together? Yeah, that feeling.
More of my journey with Spiritual disciplines will come later, I’m sure, but in relation to this interior messed-up good intentions that my soul experiences, I came across an interesting idea during my long silence and solitude session. Funny how that happens…
Mark 2:21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
I ask God for clarity. I ask God for purpose, for direction, for the opportunity to use my skills, giftings, talents to serve him. But, sometimes I need to remember that God, in his infinite wisdom, does not give these opportunities to me. Sometimes, I am an old wineskin. When I have been going, going, going, not connecting with God, not taking care to seek him and a deeper relationship with him, dodging him so that he maybe won’t notice the raw and submerged areas that need work but would take too much time and distract me from my purpose. When I try to convince God that I’m alright because of my frantic activity. At those times I’m an old wineskin.
I had never thought of myself in these terms before. Had never acknowledged that at times I’m feeling stretched, old, cracked, taut, and ready to burst of one more thing is added. Because I’m doing all good things, right? Serving, helping, busy. But I’m not placing myself in God’s hands for renewal and growth and stamina and direction. Picture yourself at these hard times when you feel stretched and like you are ready to snap. If you are that piece of cloth, then even if God brought you a new and good opportunity, would you be able and ready to honor that new opportunity in the state you are in?
I want these new opportunities from God. I want to be involved in what he is doing, great plans he has for me. But what I need to realize is that I need to let him work on me, not only let myself be available for more work to do. I need to let God take the part of me that feels like old cracked leather and bring healing, restoration, to provide balm to my weariness and bring me back to a state where I am available and healthy to serve him. I guess it’s the idea of restoration. I used to ride horses and taking care of the tack was very important. If I didn’t take care of the bridle and saddle, cleaning, oiling them, they would be of less and less use to me as time went on. Our souls are like that. If we busy ourselves and do not seek to let God grow us and nurture our souls, then our usefulness may not match our desire.
We all get to the point where we realize that we need less of what we’re doing and what we have and more of God. I believe that it is in these times that we begin to open ourselves to what God truly intends for us and this is more than my busy distracted head and heart could ever imagine.