In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney lists out the multitude of passages that prioritize solitude and silence; not just the clichéd, “Be still and know that I am God” verse from Elijah’s storm. Jesus was led into the wilderness. He went to the mountain alone to pray. He went early to a desolate place, many times to be alone. Worship of God is often silent. Zephaniah 1:7 says the earth is silent before Him. David, Isaiah and Jeremiah describe waiting on the Lord in silence (Psalm 62:1-6, Isaiah 30:15, Lamentations 3:25-28). Zechariah was struck mute to prepare him to raise his son, the prophet John. Closing our mouths and shutting out sound draws us inward and focuses our self on God and His perspective.
I also took a long hike up a local mountain, in the rain, completely alone. (I only passed two other wet souls on the trail.) It was the absolute solitude that frightened me at first. Being alone on Rattlesnake Mountain was a daunting thought, but one I embraced. I have had many thoughts of the solitude of death recently, and the complete aloneness of dying is frightening. I thought that I could face this fear in a small way by taking this four-mile hike, in the rain with all the bears and cougars and no cell phone reception! Because, after all, I have been promised that I am never alone, even in death. (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5)
At the beginning of the climb, my thoughts were stilled by the great, green forest around me. But as my doubt-addled brain is oft to do, I began to question God. The hike was steep and I stopped for breath leaning onto a drippy, moss-covered tree. I opened my inner ear and listened for answers. Hearing nothing but my thumping heart, I asked to the tree tops, “Are you there?” And heard, “I am.” Now, I didn’t actually hear anything. But, I knew that His name was the answer, and I began to marvel at the revelation.
Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Jesus. They all spent time climbing a mountain to meet with God. And so did I. At least, this was my meditation and motivation to keep climbing. I was climbing to fight my tendency toward personal indulgence and comfort. It was cold and exhausting. Jillian Michaels has a saying, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” That is a worthy goal not just in physical training, but in spiritual. I meditated on the link between the two. When I stopped for breath, I realized that the harder the climb the more I needed to stop and rest than in the flat bits. This too connected in spiritual ways that encouraged my steps.
Once I reached the overlook I was aiming for, there was nothing to see. How indicative of my journey with God recently! I was amused at the metaphor. But, all was well with my soul because I have seen the view before. On clearer days, the view of the valley and Mt. Si shock your senses and drop your jaw in wonder. Today, I trusted that the sight of the valley was still the same behind the cloud. I just couldn’t see it. It was nice to experience the intimacy of the cloud with the drizzle and the wind.
In a book about Fred Rogers, from The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth says that Fred “knew that silence leads to reflection, that reflection leads to appreciation and that appreciation looks about for someone to thank.” As I sat in the noisy silence of nature on top of that mountain, my reflections were calm, assured that I can trust that God is present even though I’m often surrounded by a cloud. He is there, even when I can’t see Him. And I spent time in gratitude.