I spend a lot of time at home now. In China, I got out and around teaching classes, meeting teammates and friends, eating out and market-hopping. Now in Pennsylvania, I teach graduate courses in an online TESOL program…from home. I write and edit and meet with teammates via my computer…from home. Getting together with friends is more scheduled than spontaneous. Nick and I share one car, so whoever has the car gets the grocery list.
My home is my cloister. I keep a rhythm of work and rest and prayer here.
It’s important not to confuse this idea with reclusiveness or exclusiveness because those don’t jive with Spirit work. A cloister is a hub for hospitality, even uninvited. Some places leave their doors unlocked at night in case a stranger needs shelter. That’s what I call an extra mile. I settle for keeping a guest room at the ready.
Jeremiah experienced a cloistered opportunity. He was imprisoned in the court of the guardhouse when a word came to him: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and wondrous things of which you are still unaware.[i] Throughout the Scriptures, an angel of the Lord or God Himself comes with a word when the target person is quietly alone.
- Moses tending sheep at Mt. Horeb
- Elijah hiding in a cave on Mt. Horeb
- Gideon threshing wheat in a winepress
- Mary’s Annunciation
Most of us can’t make a trek to Mt. Horeb today, but we can engage the spiritual disciplines that open us to great and wondrous things of which we are still unaware.
I became aware of solitude and silence as spiritual disciplines when there was little of either to be found because I craved them. It took intention to carve them out and keep them. There is gradually more solitude and silence regularly available to me, and I’m discovering that it’s different, but equally as important to set intention.
Practicing solitude and silence is not the same thing as being alone without noise. Aloneness and noiselessness are vacant. So, these disciplines get a bad rap, perhaps especially among our lot, because isolation is a painful reality for many overseas workers.
The data shows that the #1 factor for sustainability for women in this work is friendship connections. So, isolation is no joke. It’s a sideliner, a go-to enemy tactic.
Do you know that women comprise the majority of global cross-cultural workers? Probably. You probably knew that. This is a trend that needs to be quietly, reverently watched, and the women who go need support, training, care in sickness and in health, and celebration. We need to lean on our fellow workers and on those who send us, but we also need to care for ourselves.
What could happen if you repurpose isolation? Resist the temptations to empty comfort and self-pity. Eat the truth that Christ calls you friend.
I believe we could see a new trend, one that defies logic, which is a good indicator that it resembles the Kingdom of God… like a mustard seed, like yeast. We could witness a force, women who emerge from solitude and silence speaking wise true words, making connections and relationships that ripple through eternity.
If solitude and silence are spiritual disciplines that connect with you right now, an excellent resource for exploration and practice is Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton.
What spiritual disciplines do your circumstances point you to?
This is The Grove. It’s where we gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art. So join us in the comments. Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt. Click here for details and instructions.
[i] Jeremiah 33:1-3