I have heard of writer’s block, but haven’t experienced it. Instead, what I experience is shut down. It’s as though I just cannot possibly connect with another single person and so I quietly retreat within myself. It’s spiritual, as I can feel myself searching for God. And it’s quiet, which is hard to come by in my life. But it isn’t lonely.
Yet, during these times of introspective retreat, I do seem to lose my orientation. I forget which way I was headed. Ambition runs empty. Goals erase themselves one letter at a time. The board of deadlines watches the calendar month turn. As I awake and greet myself in the mirror, I have no idea what the day is supposed to cradle between horizons.
And so I’ve asked myself: What am I supposed to accomplish in this cyclical introspection? Why does it exist?
I’ve long signed off on the concept of a balanced life. I don’t think such a thing exists, nor is it supposed to. I believe it is perfectly okay to live a life weighted by heaven—a life skewed in the direction of Jesus. And if this means balance is off and I’m stumbling through the kingdom as I chase Him, I’m more than okay with that—I find it exhilarating.
But during these quiet times, I do feel as though something is amiss. I feel a deep longing for home—and I have no earthly home. There is not a single place on the map I find myself wishing to be unless it’s in the arms of someone I love. So this something amiss, this longing for home, it must be for a place I’ve yet to visit. I place I know exists and yet cannot name. A place that, when I run empty, I find myself wishing most I was filled up and able to get there.
When I close my eyes, I can see its shadow, but its reality I would never recognize.
And so what are we to do in the times we are completely unable to connect to community or friends or even family?
- Find a place that is as quiet as our heart and meet God there.
I have three separate trips booked for classes in the fall and I can’t tell what I’m most excited for—the class, or the retreat center where I’m sleeping. I am giddy for silence heavy enough that I might hear the whisper of God blowing. It’s a craving stronger than my craving for coffee or dark chocolate, which means it’s intense.
- Allow the calendar to fill with white space unapologetically.
There is a time to serve and meet needs and run on fumes for the sake of producing something worthy. But there is also a time to wander. In fact, wandering can be holy. Genesis says the Spirit of God hovered over the waters and I just have to wonder, “Was it peaceful? What did He see in those waters that captured His attention? How long did He hover? What ideas came to Him while He did?” Like a hiker on the trail, wandering—or just letting myself exist exactly where I am as I soak it all in—allows me to see and observe things I didn’t see or observe moments before. And I find myself grateful. I can’t wander unless there is time to be aimless.
- Take time to examine ourselves.
It’s very rare that I have time to sit and examine motives, thoughts, or desires. In this quiet season, I have been able to recognize sprouts of resentment that could easily grow into bitterness if left unchecked. I have listened to my tone and heard myself grow more impatient and less attentive. My weariness is showing through a threadbare soul. As I self-examine, I find new places in which I can invite the Holy Spirit. It’s an expansion of His home—His indwelling—and His presence will refuel me.
- Finally, when it’s time to reconnect, inventory gratitude.
Once I’ve given myself ample opportunity to walk past self-pity and into divine invitation, I am ready to look back and see the Lord along the journey. Whether I felt unneeded, or unwanted, or simply unable to carry-on, it’s time to look back and reflect upon all the ways God has held me together. It’s a gratitude inventory in all things large and small, and this gratitude is the fuel that fills empty. It’s praise. And when I praise, I am moved to action. I am moved toward people.
I don’t know how you handle your quiet seasons. I used to think something was wrong with me. I thought I needed to rush through them and get back to being highly connected and somewhat extroverted for the sake of others. Now I see them as a gift. It’s like being plugged back into the source of power and, if I give myself enough time, I will be fully recharged. In fact, being allowed to rest is an incredibly nurturing part of life in the Spirit.