Thursday, October 9, 2008

In the Quiet Place

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, 'In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength...'"
Isaiah 30:15a

I have been reminded quite a few times in the last few weeks of the urgency and importance of what is said to be the "quiet place" through a great book I'm reading called When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper, conversations with friends, and mostly the steady pressing of that still small voice deep within my soul. For the last few years, in each home that we have lived in, I intentionally designated a simple place in it for me to go and just be still with God. Now, let me tell you, I say "be still," but maybe what I really mean is "be with," because sometimes there is anything but what appears to be stillness going on. There, I go to praise, offer thanks, confess, cry out, shout, laugh, converse, wrestle, dance, sing, question, (Oops! Don't tell mom, b/c I was politely taught as a child not to question God; however, I have learned when I have questions and faithfully bring them to Him, He usually answers and always proves His character worthy. He surely is not required to do so, but He welcomes my respectful, and often naive inquiries, as my heart is earnestly searching for Him, just like a good earthly parent does for their kiddos.), and, yes, I also have to hush up, sit still, and listen.

Some of my most joyful, as well as most painful, moments have been spent in this quiet place. When things get hectic, it's the place I run to, or, rather, should run to, when I feel cluttered. Left unattended, my scatteredness leads to feelings of fear and insecurity, which leads to whining, complaining, or attempting to control what I cannot, and a whole lot of nothing productive for my good, the good of those around, and overall, the good of His Kingdom. The quiet place is a place of safety; it's a shelter and a haven from all of the madness swirling around outside. Sometimes the distractions come from the overbearing weight of the world in which we live, other times they come from daily life as we know it, and sometimes the struggles are simply within us. Whatever the challenge may be, journeying to the quiet place is a step in the direction of peace, for it is symbolic of intentional surrender upon entrance with humility and sincerity before the One Who is waiting to lift up my weary head. (Psalm 3:3)

We bought our current home a year ago last summer. Even before we moved in the furniture, I remember looking around wondering where my quiet place would be. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me a good, sensible spot. (Sometimes He just plops the solution before me before I can even blink, but a lot of the time, He allows me to keep searching and exploring to find His answer in order to grow my faith, patience, trust and spiritual tenacity, so to speak.) We moved our stuff in, and there seemed to be no room left over for any sort of quiet anything. There was just mess. I got rid of many items that we no longer used or had the space to use, and as I was pondering what to do with one lonely little ottoman that wouldn't fit with its chair counterpart, it hit me. I walked into my closet, which is also my husband's closet--and, by the way, he has the golf apparel to prove it--and, there in the middle, was the perfect place to set the ottoman. "This is it!" I heard Him whisper. "This is your quiet place, baby girl." (Oh my, do you ever hear Him call you that--or maybe precious daughter, son, My beloved, sweet one, or even by name? He is calling you by name--whatever name that touches the very depths of your soul--the name you long to hear spoken over you. The world may be calling you something else--but your Savior, Redeemer, and Father wants to call you His precious child, His own. Can you imagine the Creator and Sustainer of the universe calling you by name, or even the tender, loving name you have always wanted to be called? It can happen...and is happening, but that's why getting quiet--not just in the audible but in the deepest places of your soul, deliberately directing your heart towards the Lord of Hosts is so vital. Ok, woa! Sorry, for that insert...couldn't help it!) Anyway, He showed me the place, and I promised to keep it clean, not realizing what I challenge that would be for me.

I got away to the quiet place just about daily for a while. I was tempted, usually multiple times a day, to quickly toss the piles of clothes that I attempted to wear before I found the perfect match for my mood. In fact, I did make a pile, but as soon as I realized how careless I was being with my prayer ottoman, my altar, I frantically cleaned up the mess. In fact, I started spending so much time and energy trying to keep my altar, my ottoman, clean that I totally neglected my prayer time there. Oh, yes, I do most of my morning devotionals and have prayer time at the dining room table, but there was a special invitation to intimacy with the Father that I was missing in the quiet place. After a while, I got tired of housekeeping and just let the ottoman go; it got really messy.

I continued on with life as I knew it. Rush, rush, rush! The new fall routine kicked in, and now my oldest child gets up as early, or earlier, than I do to go to school. I wasn't finding enough quiet time at the table, and once the morning rush passed--I was off and out, too. Then, one day, (I can't honestly remember if it was before or after reading Piper's comments about the need for a specific place of prayer within your home? If it was before..that'd be God's prompting, if after, then His confirming. Whatever..because He's in it!), in all of my internal clutteredness, I took a good, long look at my little ottoman, my poor altar! The pile of junk upon it represented all the chaos within me.

Well, I had enough of that, and mama got to cleaning! Of course, the Lord is the owner of me; He got the deed to my life when I gave Him my heart, but He has also given me a few responsibilities. Now, He is the ultimate Housekeeper, but before one can come in and really do some deep cleaning, all those extra things just laying around have to be picked up. Even better, we can scoop them up and hand them over to Him. Forget putting the mess away, we can just give it all to Him to throw out. Amen!

So, now, my little prayer ottoman is clear and clean, except for my husband tried to lay his football/gym clothes on it last night. (Another lesson...don't allow someone else's stuff--even the ones you most love--keep you from getting to the quiet place!) I relocated his goods in a hurry! Last night, tired and weary, I made myself sit down on the couch for a bit. Although the physical inactivity was nice, my soul could not rest. I went to the quiet place. I knelt at the altar beckoning the Lord Most High, my Best Friend, my King. We had a precious meeting.

He is everywhere, you know, but He was so, so there; I was so there, in sync with His sweet, perfect melody, such music to my soul, just for a little while tucked away in His presence. Ever so often outside the quiet place, I could hear voices calling, "Mom? Where's mom? Jen..." They figured it out, though, and have learned not to interrupt holy business--unless there's fire, blood or something of the kind. Maybe, they, too, will have a quiet place someday, because, I know, He wants that with every child. He knows we need it, and I'm learning more and more how much I need it. And, in the realization of my need, I want. I want more time in the quiet place so I can better withstand the unquiet places in my everyday world; I want more of Him.

I know the journey to that place will always be a fight, for my flesh in this fallen world wages war against the needs and desires of my spirit, His Spirit in me. The more I get there, though, the more of Jesus I encounter, and quite frankly, He is very contagious.

Today, there's only one thing that rests on my ottoman. It's a Bible...an open invitation to enter into the quietness of His unconditional love and infinite mercy and grace, and a reminder that "when anxieties multiply within me, His comforts delight my soul." (Psalm 94:19) He is waiting.

1 comment:

Joy in The Truth (Sharon Sloan) said...

Love this post! I can just picture you quiet place...in the closet. This is precious! Keep going to your quiet place...and rest in Him!