Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The quiet life

Exercisefriends.com, buddyup.com, fitness-singles.com, teambeachbody.com...for the lonely gym attendee these sites might be tempting. You might be able to find another person who loves to run or do Boot Camp workouts and could help motivate you and provide you with some company on those long miles pounding pavement. The thought of a friend to go along with you on the journey might look appealing. I know sometimes it looks appealing to me.
I would love to have a friend who runs trails with me. A gym buddy would be great on the days that I struggle to push myself beyond my limits. I'd love to share my progress with someone and celebrate their accomplishments, too. Let's face it, some days we would all like someone to hit the gym with us. It can get to be a lonely, boring routine all by ourselves. Going to the gym, or just going through life, on our own can get stale.
But there is something to the life of solitude that we fail to miss if we are always trying to share our experiences with another person. In attempting to fill our days and routines with a person we run the risk of skipping right over the direction given to us in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. The scripture says, "...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
Maybe you are facing another workout alone or another wedding without a date or another evening alone with your dog. Maybe you have been single for years or divorced for months. Maybe you don't have a loved one to share your feelings with or a friend to go to the movies with. The bottom line is you feel alone. You have things, thoughts, experiences and ideas that you want to share but you have no one to share them with.
What should you do next? Is match.com your best bet to find love? How about a workout class to find like-minded fitness lovers? Should you turn to a Bible study to find other Christians in your age group?
The question shouldn't be, "how do I fill the void I feel" but "when am I going to surrender this void to God"? Quite frankly God doesn't want you to be looking to fill the loneliness void. If you are experiencing the pangs of longing associated with being alone then God has you right where He wants you. It is in this state that you can become completely and entirely dependent on Him, making your life one of work for the Lord.
And isn't that the true cause of our existence anyhow? We aren't here, saved by the blood of Jesus, so that we can have friends. A social life wasn't why Christ was nailed to the cross. If anything, our social life will become smaller once we surrender our lives to Christ. It isn't guaranteed to grow or flourish.
Why, you might be asking, would God want us to live in solitude? I want to be out there tramping for the Lord so I must be talking it up, engaging with people, being social! I have to be at parties and events so that I can talk about God all of the time.
1 Thessalonians tells us differently. It doesn't instruct us to attend studies, conferences and workshops so that we can meet other Christians or be useful to God. It tells us to get quiet and get to work with our hands. Nothing glamorous about it. Just get to work. Don't concern yourself with having other people to share your work with. Don't worry about talking and being the life of the party. God is asking you to be quiet.
When you stop and think about it, being quiet makes perfect sense. When you are talking are you listening? When you are out with friends are you hearing from God? A vibrant social life is appealing but it can be a distraction. God wants our attention and He is well aware of the noise that threatens to catch our wandering eyes and hearts.
While reflecting on this scripture and the lesson God had for me in it I was reminded of my Great Grandmother. I never knew her but I've heard many stories from my Mom. All of the stories are the same: my Mom's recollection of her Grandmother reading her Bible. She never saw her Grandmother in a soup kitchen or at a Bible study. She never saw her Grandmother at a job or out with friends. Her Grandmother led a quiet life of solitude. Her days were filled with prayer and scripture.
Although my Mom never witnessed her Grandmother doing anything fantastical or exemplary her actions still stuck out to my Mom, so much so that they are vivid to this day. What she saw was a woman of faith who didn't need anything other than her God. That is an amazing testimony, one that is often undervalued.
Like the scripture says, live a quiet life, one that will win the respect of others. My Great Grandmother never won an election and wouldn't have been described as gregarious, but she left an impression on her Granddaughter. She didn't need a social circle or a fancy house. She didn't need a best friend, a weeknight Bridge game or the activities center at The Villages retirement community. She just needed her Bible. She just needed to be in the presence of her Savior.
There is a lesson in her life for all of us. Maybe our lives will lead in a direction that puts us up on center stage, preaching to a crowd or singing to an audience. Maybe we will pen a best-seller or lead a woman's Bible study. Or maybe we will be on the front lines as a prayer warrior in the quiet of our closet. There is no telling where God will use us. But don't assume that He can't use you in your solitude. That may be exactly where He wants to have you now and always. It may be where He wants you for this month or this year. He may have you surrounded by noise right now but could be taking you to a quiet place in the not too distant future. Don't mistake the silence for uselessness or abandonment. Do the work God has for you in the stillness. Tune in to the quiet so that you can hear God with precision and clarity.
God doesn't want you to be dependent on anybody. He wants you to be as at home alone as you are with a room full of people. He wants you to be comfortable with the quiet life, not scrambling to fill it with noise. He will be your portion and your lifelong companion. He will be your workout buddy and your shoulder to cry on. When you allow Him to be your partner in life you will never truly be alone. Just simply come to the silence and meet Him there. You will find Him waiting to take away your void of loneliness and give you the peace of a quiet life spent working for His glory.

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