Out of Exile: Day 29 – Listen

I live about a mile south of a freeway. I don’t think much about it. I never hear it. But some days in the summer, if I sit outside and I’m quiet and think about it, there it is. I hear it. It’s this constant hum in the background.

I hear a lot of things when I’m quiet. If I focus on bird calls I hear all kinds of birds I didn’t even know were out there. 

To be told to “be quiet and listen” is almost offensive to people who expect a solution to every problem.

That’s what happens when you stop to listen: you hear things you don’t normally hear.

If you want to return from exile, you need to learn to be quiet and listen. There are so many things to think about when you are walking the desert, far from where you ever imagined you’d be. You think about:

  • all the mistakes you made to cause you to end up in exile
  • all the people who did you wrong and the ways you hope they get theirs
  • all the worst case scenarios and how life will never be good again
  • all the Bible verses that you were “claiming” but didn’t come to fruition
  • all the plans to take back your life and show people who no one can put you down

With all that going on in your mind, it’s hard to be quiet. Sometimes we call our obsessive thinking “prayer” because we direct a lot of our thinking at God. I’m not so sure it’s prayer if it’s just you venting without giving God equal time to speak back.

If you want to return from exile it’s important to learn the discipline of silence. Turn off your obsessions. Stop judging yourself and/or others. Stop planning. Stop regretting. Just shut it all down and create space in your mind for new thoughts.

I read Henry Cloud say that 90% of our thoughts every day are the same as yesterday. We just keep rehashing them. We need to cease thinking to create space for new thoughts. Better thoughts.

Richard Rohr talks about silence as a form of prayer:

Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a willingness to say “I don’t know.” We must not push the river, we must just trust that we are already in the river, and God is the certain flow and current.

Sometimes we try to hard to fix our situation. We are desperate to gain back control. But maybe that’s one of the big reasons you ended up in exile: God wants to show you that you are not in control. He is. Rohr continues to explain…

…the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. So much of life is just a matter of listening and waiting …It is like carrying and growing a baby: women wait and trust and hopefully eat good food, and the baby is born.

To be told to “be quiet and listen” is almost offensive to people who expect a solution to every problem. I’m not saying there isn’t a solution to your exile. I’m just saying that the solution to your exile probably isn’t in your brain when you first get there. That’s one reason you ended up there in the first place. You need to make room for God to reveal new things to you. Before he can do that, you need to create space through silence.

How good are you at silence and listening? What keeps you from it? What can you do to create that kind of space in your life?  Join the discussion by leaving your thoughts below. Consider sharing this post on Facebook. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “Out of Exile: Day 29 – Listen

  1. Anonymous

    Excellent, excellent teaching. On the first pass, the barriers to being silent seem to be having, taking and making time. But we all have times when we can be silent – maybe the times are brief and interspersed in our day. I think the key point in here is this idea of making space for new thoughts (inspiration from the Holy Spirit) – and not just repeating the same old thoughts. That 90% figure you quote can be very true, especially some days.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      Glad you found this helpful. Personally, I’m not the kind of person that sits in silence every day for an hour. I wish I was. But I have been learning how to ratchet down the intensity of my thought life to create the kind of space I’m talking about. I’ve actively worked at not feeling the need to form an opinion about everything, which frees up a lot of RAM space in my mind.

  2. Lisa

    I can quickly affirm, learning to listen or just be quiet was one of those themes that kept popping up in exile. And yes, that’s when I learned to accept and have no shame about being a “Word” girl. I love and respect God’s word very much. 3 verses were significant for me in the process.

    1 Thessalonians 4:11 …”that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, ” At the time, it was a powerful verse for me. This verse was given to me during some cross-cultural readjustment counseling; and down the road it helped me to prioritize and served as a point of focus.

    Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” This one came to light when a dear older friend of mine fell and broke her arm and all “exile” hit the fan for me. Learning to be still and pay attention to God working in our lives was taken quite literally and seriously.

    And my favorite verse: Zephaniah 3: 17 The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” The best part of God’s love, it will quiet you. It did me.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      I have verses that nurtured me through dark times too. I find it so interesting that “words on a page” can play such a powerful, sustaining role in your life.Thanks for sharing these with us.

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