I’m sure many would agree that American culture places a high value on accomplishment. Many would also agree that constant “doing” comes at price, most often, relational erosion. We can lose an awareness of God, of others, and even of ourselves.
Add stressful events like an election, COVID uncertainty, racial tensions and stresses at home, and life can quickly feel exhausting with little capacity to be attentive to important relationships.
For such a time as this, (Ecclesiastes 3:1), the spiritual discipline of “pause” is an antidote. The discipline of pause is the practice of creating small spaces of time to step away from “doing” and simply “be” during the course of your day. These small spaces of time are different from the “time on task” activities that often measure our days. Sacred “pauses” allow us to breath and refresh our souls as we are reminded again of the presence of God, the gift of loving relationships, and our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God.
To engage the discipline of pause, spiritual guides point to solitude, silence, and stillness as lifesaving corrections to the absurdity of our pace of life, the chaotic interruptions of our days, and the continual demand to do more.
Solitude teaches us the benefit of intentional withdraw to become present to God, to others, and to ourselves. Despite all the texts, tweets, and social media, genuine human connection seems elusive these days. Intentional withdraw for momentary prayer creates a pause allowing us to reset our focus to see and be present with others.
Silence teaches us to listen. Our age is noisy. Few truly listen. Almost everyone talks over other’s sentences. Our days are filled with interruptions. In silence we become quiet to listen again to the voice of God, to people in our lives who speak truthful words of correction and affirmation to us, and to the state of our own souls.
Stillness teaches us restraint. It frees us from the deception that our busyness and productivity make our work indispensable. Slowing our lives down and becoming still before God enables greater discernment regarding what appropriate engagement looks like going forward.
Mother Teresa was an outstanding example of the blending of being and doing. She lived a very active life and built a ministry movement to the world’s poorest people. Yet, five times a day she would pause. Her prayers didn’t support her work. Rather, her work was the fruit of her prayers.
How did she do it? She scheduled regular sacred pauses each day to nurture an inner withdraw (solitude), nurture a listening heart (silence), and to stop (stillness), in order to discern how the Lord was asking her to engage the world.
So how does one begin to practice the discipline of pause? Begin by scheduling several moments each day to enter a place of solitude. As these moments arrive stop, breathe, and relax. Sit for a few moments in the long and loving gaze of Jesus. He is never so distracted by life that he takes his focus off you. He is always ready to give his full attention to you.
As you withdraw, become silent. Notice how you come during these times. Listen for what is most true about you in that moment. Are you distracted by present concerns? Are you overwhelmed by the frantic management of your life? Are you joyful as you notice a blessing from God?
Imagine Jesus giving his full attention to you. Listen to Him remind you that He is your friend, (John, 15:15). Consider how your friend Jesus has been with you in the last few hours? Thank Him for His faithful presence and gifts in your life. Thank Him for a moment to pause and connect with Him.
Listen, as the Holy Spirit reveals where you have fallen short in following Him during the last few hours. Where did you blow past a sign posted by the Holy Spirt warning against a sinful choice? Where did you miss an opportunity to partner with the Holy Spirit in the work of the kingdom?
Then become still. Look forward toward the next few hours. What will you be facing? How is the Lord asking you to show up for the next part of your day? Then ask your friend Jesus for what you need. Ask him for the grace to engage life again as His disciple.
While the world frantically seeks to make sense of a chaotic and uncertain world, followers of Jesus find rest and refreshment for our souls as they encounter God through moments of solitude, silence, and stillness.