How to revive your soul with silence and solitude

In our family, the day after Thanksgiving officially marks the day we start decorating for and preparing for the Christmas season.

After a cup of strongly brewed coffee, I set about the task of digging out the Christmas boxes from our garage. I unfolded our tree from its resting place. My husband helped me string the lights, and the boys hung the ornaments with glee, exclaiming with delight over their favorite ones. In the late afternoon, in the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, we watched our first holiday movie of the season: Home Alone.

Other than the part when Kevin outsmarts two thieves by booby-trapping his house, my favorite part of the movie is when he wakes up to an empty house and realizes for the first time that he is home alone. A charming sequence of scenes shows Kevin jumping on the bed while eating popcorn, playing with his brother’s BB gun, watching a movie while eating from a giant bowl of ice cream, and even sledding gleefully down the stairs.

My two boys are 18 months apart and when they were very small I, too, fantasized about being home alone. Occasionally, I was able to leave the house on my own, but it’s not the same as being home alone. In my fantasies, I would sip a large mug of hot coffee uninterrupted without needing to reheat it. I would take a long enough shower to shave both my legs. I’d eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I’d purge and reorganize the toy bins. I’d watch a romantic comedy without my husband rolling his eyes at me. I would sit on the couch in silence and nap as long as I wanted to.

When my youngest was around one, I discovered that I could experience some of those blissful “home alone” feelings if I just woke up before everyone else. I set my alarm fifteen minutes early and enjoyed my hot coffee in a quiet living room, my Bible perched on my lap. I liked it so much that I started waking even earlier – greedy for more me-time, for more silence, for more stolen moments in which I was simply “Sarah” and no one’s mommy.

How to revive your soul with silence and solitude

Now that my boys are older and both in school, being home alone is much more attainable. But I find that I fritter away this precious time with chores, errands, and following rabbit trails on the internet. I find that the noise, chaos, and distraction is as much internal as it is external. I busy myself so much with doing, that I neglect my being.

It’s possible to be in a quiet house with a frenzied soul. It’s possible to have your restless heart know that it’s time to sit still and embrace silence and solitude long enough to tune into God’s frequency – the God who waits for us to quiet ourselves in order to hear him.

I love what Ruth Haley Barton says in her book “Invitation to Solitude and Silence“:

To enter into solitude and silence is to take the spiritual life seriously. It is to take seriously our need to quiet the noise in our lives, to cease the constant striving of human effort, to pull away from our absorption in human relationships for a time in order to give God our undivided attention. In solitude God begins to free us from our bondage to human expectations, for there we experience God as our ultimate reality – the One in whom we live and move and have our being. In solitude our thoughts and our mind, our will and our desires are reoriented Godward so we become less and less attracted by external forces and can be more deeply responsive to God’s desire and prayer in us.

Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence

This December, as I find myself surrounded by Christmas preparations, holiday responsibilities, extra gatherings, and all that the world around me tells me I should be doing and feeling, I find that my internal noise level has become deafeningly loud.

I feel a new sense of urgency to carve out time for rest and for reflection, time for sitting quietly, expectantly in the silence, for finding my contentment and worth in being instead of doing.

It’s Home Alone at the soul level.

And my hope is that as I practice silence and solitude in the early mornings – set my timer for increasingly longer intervals spent without reading, journaling, or any other distractions – I would be reminded that God is my ultimate reality and that his desires for me are the only thing that truly matter.

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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