Henri Nouwen once offered a simple description of spiritual disciplines as “the human effort to create open space to listen to the voice of the One who calls us the beloved.” A while back, I took time to reflect on a few spiritual disciplines I’ve practiced over the years. I wanted to think about how each of them made space (and time) for me to listen and to be open to God in my life.
- In fasting, I offer an empty stomach for a season in place of my usually full (or even overfull) stomach. Perhaps I remember especially, as Jesus did in the wilderness, that I do not live by bread alone. What enters my stomach does not keep me alive in the truest sense.
- In silence, I refrain from normal speech to listen more attentively to God’s voice. Here I am reminded that God speaks, but also that in deep intimacy, God enjoys being with me sometimes without a word.
- In solitude, I avoid normal company and community to be alone with God. Solitude is not isolation (alone with no one) or privacy (alone for my own purposes), but focused time with God.
- In frugality, I cease usual patterns of spending to remember that God Himself is my treasure. As Jesus put it, my life really does not consist in all the things I buy and possess.
- In secrecy, I avoid normal visibility for the work I do or the service I offer so as to offer it to God alone. Here I realize that the only recognition I really need comes from God Himself.
- In the discipline of watching, I may stay awake when I would normally sleep, rising earlier or staying up later, to commune with God in that quieter time of day.
- In sacrifice, I may refrain from meeting even some of my normal needs to remember that God is the One I truly and fully need.
What spiritual disciplines have helped you most in making space and time to listen attentively to God? What spiritual disciplines might His Spirit be inviting you in your current season?