Last month Pam and I enjoyed a wonderful week's holiday in Madeira. For the most part the weather was warm and fine but there was one day when the weather dosed in and it rained until about 5pm.
Looking back, that day did me more good than any other day of the holiday. And that was not just because Everton was playing Liverpool and, thanks to the rain, I could watch the match on the television without being criticised! It was because the wet day caused us to stop completely, to rest completely, we were not tempted to do anything other than relax.
At the end of the afternoon I went into our room and, lying on the bed, I realised that I had not felt such complete peace for a long time. And, in the quiet, watching the rain splatter onto the deserted hotel swimming paoli I wondered, "why can't I do this at home?' After all we have plenty of rainy days in Burchetts Green!
A fear of silence?
In our modern world there is noise everywhere. And much of this is noise that we chose for ourselves. We leave the TV on even though we are not really watching ... there is a radio in every room of the house ... and in the car ... Even as I write this the room is not silent, as Test Match Special described England well on the way to losing yet another cricket match.
We carry a phone and an iPod around with us, never allowing ourselves to leave the relentlessness of modern living behind. It's almost as if we're afraid to stop; to simply be; to embrace recreating silence and solitude.
'In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.' The previous day had been a draining one for Jesus as he ministered to needy people late into the evening. He knew that he needed time alone; in the quiet on his own; yet not quite alone, he would spend time with his heavenly Father. Often. in The Bible, God speaks to people in the stillness, when 'all our strivings cease.' If Jesus needed this time, so will we, and yet I, and no doubt many of us, are curiously reluctant to create these times of rest.
Advent, a time to reflect
The end of this month sees the start of the church's season called Advent. We might associate the weeks leading up to Christmas with frenetic activity, and indeed we feel that there is a certain inevitability about that. Yet the church is calling us to a spend time reflecting, time in quiet. Is this unrealistic? It might seem so, but it was amidst a busy time that Jesus deliberately withdrew to a deserted place, leaving all the clamour and demands of the day behind. He knew re-creative time was not going to happen automatically; he had to deliberately engineer it. So amidst the demands of Advent, let us plan for 'time out'; time in a quiet still place; time when we can truly rest and hear the still small voice of God for ourselves.