Create Space and Listen
Without great solitude, no serious work is possible. — Pablo Picasso
Growing up, I always considered myself an extrovert. I never declined an invitation or opportunity to hang with friends. If homework or studying for a test threatened to get in the way, I’d pull an all-nighter. College life suited me. There were late night hangs in the dorm, morning workouts with friends, and I made sure my friends and I had plans after each Saturday football game. I was enthusiastic about life, and the more the merrier was my modus operandi.
After graduation, things began to change. When I became a mom of toddlers, I craved alone time. Closing the door to the bathroom felt sacred. When those toddlers grew up and became teens, I’d linger in the car in the garage for a few moments after they went inside. This shift in me showed up in other ways as well. Instead of exercising in a noisy, crowded gym, I began to prefer morning workouts involving yoga and nature hikes. To make room for a longer pause of quiet at home, I set aside two days a week for running errands and meeting friends for lunch or coffee. On the mornings I wasn’t running around, I spent large swaths of time at home, sitting in the quiet.
I’ve flown a lot over the last five years, and on one flight, it hit me: The reason I enjoyed flying was that it offered me quiet and a chance to recharge. During a flight I could catch up on podcasts and talks; I could journal, read, and prep for what I would be speaking about later that night. When I arrived at the event, I was energized and ready to engage at full capacity for a long evening until everyone went home.
I loved both the intense connection with people for long periods of time and the retreat to a silent hotel room.
What did that mean? Was I becoming an introvert?
Discovering just how much I loved less noisy spaces, I picked up Susan Cain’s book Quiet, in which she writes, “Introverts… may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family.”1 She was describing at least a part of me to a tee.
One day I was sharing with a friend how I don’t seem to fit into the introvert or extrovert box. Sure, I love a good party, but I also enjoy long mornings alone or one-on-one conversations. I told her about some research I’d stumbled across, how two-thirds of us don’t identify as introverts or extroverts.2 My friend asked me if I’d heard of the term ambivert. I had not. She explained that an ambivert is “a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features,” and suggested that this definition better described me. Despite the oddness of the word, it aptly describes me. Give me extroversion without the hours of small-talk. Give me introversion without the cloistered cave.
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WE ALL NEED QUIET
Whether we call ourselves extroverts, introverts, or ambiverts, all of us need quiet — times when we pause, reflect, and assess.
In fact, this was a truth Jesus lived. He modeled quiet throughout His ministry. For instance, just after He was baptized, the Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness for forty days of quiet, and at the end of that season, He beat back the temptation of Satan and pushed into His public ministry. After many of His miracle-making moments, Jesus retreated into the mountains for solitude and prayer. On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus spent time in quiet reflection and prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Quiet was a part of His consistent routine — so how much more must we need it in our own lives? We would do well to understand that
we are able to be our best selves when we are centered in a place of quiet rest.
But if you think getting quiet is easy, think again. You’ll have to fight the entire culture for it. The noise and distractions are endless in this digital age. Even if you clear out the distractions and create space for quiet, you’ll have to get comfortable with yourself — with being alone with your thoughts, failures, hopes, dreams, wounds, and longings. For some of us, quiet can be the scariest place to go. But when we go there, when we establish routines of quiet and protect them, incredible things happen for our emotional and mental health.
First, in the quiet we gain perspective. When the noise of our lives overwhelms us, we often misconstrue or lose track of reality. By creating space away from our busy realities, we can see more clearly what is happening and gain new energy to approach the challenges that have nested too close to home.
Second, the quiet helps us become more emotionally resilient and empathetic to others. A recent Forbes article noted, “Studies show the ability to tolerate alone time has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, and improved stress management.”3
Quiet helps us maintain a sense of calm, re-center, and become more fully who we were designed to be.
Being quiet doesn’t only benefit us. It helps us relate to others, too.
QUIET: THE WAY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
I incorporated intentional practices of quiet into my life, and as I did, I noticed improvements in the ways I interacted with the world. Quietness infused the way I related to others, enabled me to be a bearer of peace, love, and wisdom in in the midst of chaos. In fact, the more I pushed into the quiet, the more I was able to connect with the people in my life and become a better friend.
The quiet taught me to listen again. As I did, I asked genuine questions of my friends. I stopped to connect with their hearts and hear their ache, and I learned how to extend empathy, pray for them, and be a better support. Quiet listening also taught me to discern. I began to hear what was not being said. I started to read between the lines, notice facial expressions, observe when the eyes shifted away if questions became too personal. Quiet discernment helped me see when someone was hurting, striving, or pushing too hard, and it led me to ask whether there was a need I could meet. Finally, quiet listening taught me to understand. It taught me how to keep from filling every empty space with words, taught me how to sit in quiet empathy for my spouse, friend, and children.4 Quiet listening kept me from assuming and overreacting in defense, things which only hurt those closest to us.
A few weeks ago, my son Pierce and I went for a walk to catch up on how things were going for him. He was a couple months into his sophomore year, and his days were consumed with the constant demands of school sports, songwriting lessons, term papers and exams. Although he was grateful for it all, I heard his voice crack mid-sentence as he expressed that he was feeling pressured to measure up. Pierce usually manages stress with ease and maintains a light-hearted demeanor no matter the circumstance. I knew this was a unique moment not to solve or fix, but to lean in. So I paused and said, “Tell me more.”
A conversation ensued in which he told me things I wouldn’t have heard if other people were around or if we were hustling to and fro. My only responses were things like, “I’m so sorry you are facing this,” Or, “I know how things can build up.” I offered no answers. No solutions. By giving my son space and silence, I allowed him to receive what he really needed: to be loved, heard, and understood.
When we carve out space for the quiet, to retreat to a silent place to pray, journal, or read, we rest from the noisy distractions of our lives.
This rest pulls us out of the anxiety and stress of the world, if only for a moment. When we create spaces of quiet with others, it allows us to take a break from offering solutions or unwanted advice and allows us to show empathy, love, and understanding.
Quiet — it provides a refuge for ourselves and others from this noisy world.
- Carve out 15 minutes for quiet reflection. Take note of where your thoughts go when you are all alone, without any distractions.
- When was the last time you sat in silence? List ways you might incorporate quiet into your weekly rhythms.
- Where can you carve out thirty minutes to an hour of quiet in your daily rhythm, time to reflect (and breathe) without any distractions?
1.Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2012), 11.
2.Travis Bradbury, “9 Signs that You’re an Ambivert,” Forbes (April 26, 2016) https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/04/26/9 -signs-that-youre-an-ambivert/#4c2ff 7493145.
3.Amy Morin, “7 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone,” Forbes (August 5, 2017) https://www.forbes.com/sites/ amymorin/2017/08/05/7-science-backed-reasons-you-should-spend -more-time-alone/#4859cdf61b7e.
4.Author Emerson Eggerichs stated this to Gabe and me when we spent time with him in marriage counseling. He said most people think the key to a great marriage is “good communication,” but this is false. The key to a great marriage is mutual understanding.
Excerpted with permission from Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons, copyright Rebekah Lyons.
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Do you make space for quiet in your life? Or did you just mutter, “I wish!” Let’s stop wishing for it and make time to be quiet before the Lord, to cut out the noise and just be alone with Him and listen. Come share with us what happens on our blog! We want to hear! ~ Devotionals Daily