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Silence, Solitude, Stillness, and…Sickness

I usually love Sunday mornings. I sleep until I wake up, and then I make a cup of tea and sit in front of the fireplace and read and journal and review the past week and eventually look to the week ahead. This practice usually gives me a sense of peace. I decide which mornings I’ll exercise and which nights we will all be home for dinner. I get a sense of where I have chunks of time to write. Then I make a plan and things fall into place. 

Except that’s not what happened last weekend. Ten days ago, I sat down to plan the week, and I could feel my shoulders tightening with every item I added to the to do list. There was no way to make exercise, prayer, Christmas shopping, social events, and work fit into the hours available. The thought flashed through my head: “This would be a good week to get sick.”

For years, when I’ve felt anxious and overwhelmed, when warning signals have pinged through my consciousness because I have started to forget things, lose things, snap at our children and distance myself from Peter– I’ve pushed. In the past, the only thing that has stopped me is illness.  

And here I was again. I invited a cold, and promptly received what I had asked for.

Except this time, I didn’t use it as a reason to climb under my covers and go to sleep, to avoid the parties and escape the obligations. Instead, as my head filled up with fluid, I thought about how sickness might not be the only way to respond to feeling overwhelmed. What if, instead, I had paused? Listened? Prayed? What if I decided not to get everything done, or decided not to attend a social event, or decided to simplify the shopping, or just asked God for help?

The sickness didn’t linger. And in the midst of my sniffles, I heard a podcast with Phileena Huertz and Andy Hale in which she talked about the disciplines of silence, solitude, and stillness. She mentioned that silence teaches us to listen, solitude teaches us to be present, and stillness teaches us when to act.

From the perspective of the church calendar, Advent is the perfect time for these three habits. From the perspective of a mom getting ready for Christmas, December is diametrically opposed to anything approaching contemplation. But for me, getting sick was an invitation to go back to Advent. To wake up and sit in front of our gas fireplace and repeat the words, “Be still and know that I am God,” and to offer all the restless activity and frantic doing to the babe in the manger.

Silence, solitude, and stillness. Invitations to receive hope, peace, and trust from the still small voice of love. May you hear that voice this season.

In keeping with this invitation, I’m going to be taking a break from blogging for the next two weeks. I look forward to seeing you again in the New Year!

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