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Silence and Service
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Silence, Solitude and the City

The title of the book was The Divine Conspiracy. It examines Jesus’ strategy for developing a corps of agents to spread the principles of His Kingdom here in this broken world. The section I was reading focused on solitude and silence as tools to help us respond naturally in “Christian” ways to the situations and people of real life.

And I was riding a packed city bus.

I smelled the familiar odors of people from places in society where there is not the same emphasis on washing. I noticed the incredible variety of people, young adults and the aged, every sort of ethnicity, clothing styles from suits to uniforms to jeans to miniskirts, pierced and unpierced, professor types and day laborers. Every seat was taken. The aisle was half-full with standees. Not much solitude.

And not much silence either. Every block or so the driver announced the up-coming stop. Traffic wooshed by constantly. Occasionally it roared. The bus engine noise rose and fell with the demands of starts and hills. The hydraulic wheel-chair lift whined. Sometimes there was raucous, hilarious talk. Once there was a testy exchange between offended passengers. Never was there any quiet–while I continued reading about the indispensable role of solitude and silence in shaping a vital spiritual life.

Sounds of Silence

The city is full of commotion. It’s busy, noisy, crowded. But as I rode the bus and read about silence and solitude, it struck me that cities give solitude and silence special meaning. The disciplines of solitude and silence are tools designed to sharpen my focus on God and clarify my vision of God’s purposes in this world. This renewed vision drives me back to the city where I cooperate with God in his conspiracy of love.

Jesus spent forty days fasting and praying in the wilderness. He faced and defeated temptation in the wilderness as preparation for ministry in the heart of the crowd. From the wilderness he moved directly into non-stop service to thousands of physically hurting, spiritually hungry people. He went straight from solitude to the city.

If you are privileged to live in a quiet place, be careful that quietness and tranquility do not become your idols. The blessings of peaceful surroundings are intended to prepare us for service, not seduce us into premature retirement from service as agents of the Kingdom of Heaven.

If you live in a crazy-making city, make occasions for finding quiet and solitude, but remember that silence and solitude are not what we are made for. Rather, we are made for love. And what better place to practice that art than in a teeming metropolis.

"In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus went out to a solitary place and prayed. . . . Then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go to the surrounding cities, so that I can preach there, too. Because that is why I have come' " (Mark 1:35-38, author's paraphrase).

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By John Thomas McLarty. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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