“Be still, and know that I am God . . .” – Psalm 46:10
A popular method these days for managing a small child’s misbehavior is to put them in “time out” (picture Dennis the Menace sitting in the corner in his rocking chair), the theory being that spending time in solitude will have a calming effect while simultaneously allowing the child to reflect on his or her behavior. How effective “time out” is with children I’m not sure, but it certainly has proven to be a positive activity for adults, providing both calmness and reflective time; for it is in these quiet times of introspection that our creativity comes alive and our energy renewed.
Quiet time, or solitude, is not a luxury that just happens from time to time, rather it is a discipline – something that must be intentional. Once I read an article about Bill Gates, the renowned founder and CEO of Microsoft, who twice a year for a week at a time retreats into a place of isolation in order to study and reflect on the direction of his company. From that quiet, reflective time new ideas are discovered, and both he and his company become re-energized.
Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, recommends a similar but perhaps more practical approach to solitude than Bill Gates. “Four times a year,” he suggests, “withdraw for three or four hours for the purpose of reorienting your life goals. . . Reevaluate your goals and objectives in life. What do you want to have accomplished one year from now? Ten years from now? . . . Set realistic goals but be willing to dream, to stretch. . . In the quiet of those brief hours, listen to the thunder of God’s silence. . . Reorientation and goal setting do not need to be cold and calculating as some suppose. Goals are discovered, not made.”
A period of silence – a retreat from the noises of our busy world – is the essential ingredient for effective solitude, whether it is for a few brief moments or an extended period of time. Most importantly, “Be still, and know that I am God,” as the Psalmist says. The fruit of solitude, as Bill Gates’ experiences have proven over and over, is renewal – renewal of creativity, renewal of energy, and renewal of relationships.