Solitude and silence are two disciplines that I often practice together. They can be separated, but it takes a lot of intentionality to practice silence in a group, and solitude just lends itself to being quiet. Saturdays, as my current Sabbath day, usually have a good chunk of time built in for both these disciplines, but I try to find time during the week, simply for my sanity as an introvert, to be quiet and alone, too - and one of the easiest ways I know of doing that is turning off the radio when I'm driving, and letting my car become a sanctuary of sorts. I don't always pay attention to what's happening - or what could happen - in that silence. Sometimes it is simply a refuge from the noise of life, and I don't spend my time in silence listening at all - I spend it mentally reviewing and processing through events and conversations, and forget to ask God what He thinks about any of it. But one of the most awesome things about silence is that it creates the opportunity for Him to speak with a higher probability that I'll hear it. (Which makes the discipline of practicing solitude and silence totally worth it.)
I was driving home from my Zumba class the other day in the quietness of a cold winter's night. The stars were shining; there was snow on the ground. The YMCA where I take my class is out in the middle of ... well, I'm sure it's somewhere. ;) But it means that the drive home is on a winding road through large forested properties, and it's absolutely beautiful. As I was driving home that night, I looked to my left, and there was a large log cabin-like home just visible through the snow-covered trees, with its porch lights on, and it looked so incredibly welcoming and ... well, homey.
And out of nowhere, it hit me. This deep, intense longing:
I want that.
...oh. God... I am so sorry....
And there was like this pause in the Spirit (for lack of a better way to describe it), and then He said, "... why?"
It wasn't quite an incredulous sort of question - because He's God, and He knows everything, so He couldn't be incredulous about anything - but there was very definitely an element of kind challenge and serious questioning in the tone of His question.
I had an instant answer, of course. Ruth Haley Barton says in her book, Sacred Rhythms, that our souls have no safe places to speak - that the minute they try, we meet them with instant judgment and commentary. That was very true for me in that moment.
"It's coveting, God! It's wanting something I don't have. It's discontentment with where I am in life, with what You've given me. It's sin!"
It's not like you want that specific house. You're not asking to trade lives with those people. You don't want their lives. You want what that house represents to you: a home. marriage, kids - a family. love. blessing. prosperity. hospitality - and the ability to offer it freely. And those are actually good things to want! They are things I made you for - things that I call "good."
Wanting them is not a sin. You are not coveting - you are longing.
There's a difference.
That was hard for me to get my head around. I'm still working on it, actually. But here's the thing:
Psalm 37:4 says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. There are two ways I've heard that interpreted. The first (and most common) is that if you make God your One Thing - if your absolute first priority in life is spending time with Him, and putting Him first in everything, then He's going to give you your heart's desires.
But here's the second (and I think possibly a more accurate) interpretation: that if you delight yourself in the Lord - if you are happy to be with Him - then He will give your heart the very desires it has.
Do you see the difference?
It's not just about getting what you want - it's about the very things you want being from Him in the first place.
I'm not sure what to think about that conversation. It's not like there's honestly much I can do about it. But it is definitely food for thought.
What do you think?