This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the lakefront, among the dunes of Indiana. Despite my upbringing in southwest Florida, I’m not much of a beach person. Given my fair complexion, visits to the beach usual involved painful sunburns or gobs of sticky sun lotion. But, this time I found myself looking forward to being near the waves and out in the nature of the dunes. With the breeze blowing and the sun nestled quietly behind some clouds, it really was the perfect day for a redhead to go to the beach.
My enthusiasm and excitement were immediately shattered when I arrived to find a tiny strip of beach filled with a multitude of people, all vying for some small patch of sand. It was almost comical. Living on the beach in Chicago, this is a scene I am very familiar with, but out there in the rural quietude of a sleepy town I was honestly taken aback by the throngs of people on this small wisp of shoreline.
With every kick of sand by a passerby and every shriek of delight from a nearby child, I felt my centered spirit drift further and further away. I became emotionally drained and more than a little disheartened. Eventually I nodded off for some unknown length of time and awoke to a much quieter scene. The beach had almost entirely cleared out, and I found myself alone. I could hear waves crashing and the breeze blowing through the tall dune grass, and that same sense of centering spirit returned in me and I couldn’t help but pray.
The experience reminded me of how often Jesus removed himself from the crowds to be alone with God. The crowds were wonderful, full of energy of opportunity to minister, but he needed regular refreshment in a quiet place. Even in this week’s scriptures, after feeding the people, Jesus sends the disciples on ahead while he finds quiet time to pray. In our own spiritual journeys, we discover that silence is a powerful place to find Spirit. It is not merely the absence of noise or distraction, but a thing unto itself. The very space out of which God creates… just is in the beginning. Many spiritual teachers through the centuries have said we must “go to the desert” to commune with God. Only in these places of alone-ness, can we truly open ourselves to the fullness of the Spirit of God and in turn refresh our souls for the journey. Where will you seek silence?