by Janet Hall
“Where can I go from you Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Psalm 139:7
Several years ago, a good friend gave me the book Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Grace by Ruth Haley Barton. As much as I would like to experience God’s transforming grace in my life, accepting an invitation to solitude and silence was not really on my “things to do” list! I didn’t give it much more thought and set the book aside.
Fast forward to October 2015, a young woman at Evergreen SGV approached me for mentorship. After some prayerful consideration, I decided to accept that invitation. She wanted to study a book together; and of all the books that were suggested and all the books that she could have chosen, she selected Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Grace by Ruth Haley Barton!
At that point, I knew I had to read the book; but on a positive note, since I already had it, I would not need to purchase it. However, I looked all over my house for several days, and I absolutely could not find it. I made a decision several years ago not to accumulate so many books. So I have been borrowing from the library or just buying gently used books and passing them along after I finished reading. I proceeded to purchase a used book online, but when it arrived, the book was heavily marked – almost every sentence was underlined or highlighted. For someone who rarely marks her book, that is quite a shock for me to behold. It would be impossible for me to read that book. I worked it out with the seller and promptly returned it. I then reluctantly purchased another used book and eagerly waited for its arrival (my mentee and I already started meeting). I was so happy when the book arrived, and it was in pristine condition. Then the irony dawned on me: the book that I so carelessly set aside turned out to be a book that I spent hours pursuing! My loving Father, whose invitation I rather mindlessly disregarded, gave me a second chance to experience His transforming grace – but this time, I had to work on being invited to practice solitude.
As much as I was reluctant to read this book, God has really spoken to me through it. I have to admit that even though I know it is important to be silent before Him, I struggle to be still and just rest in His presence. I’m taking small steps to practice solitude and silence including signing up for “A Day with Jesus” – and I am actually looking forward to this invitation!
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-2