If you're a mother, you can relate: Between caring for kids, managing the house, and tackling work or other responsibilities, the idyllic quietness of heart and deep communion with God we long for can seem like a mirage, a perpetually unattainable goal. Real life with real kids is seldom quiet, and dedicated moms are hardly ever alone. For us, even using the bathroom can become a family affair! Of all the classic spiritual disciplines, silence and solitude can seem the most unrealistic for a mother with young children.
In many ways these disciplines are incongruous with parenthood. It's not possible to live as a hermit and bond with your children. It's not possible to take a vow of silence and simultaneously supply your children with the verbal affirmation, songs, and bedtime stories they need.
As one friend put it, "Solitude and silence are the least compatible disciplines with my life as a mom. Yet I long to be able to spend time alone in quietness; I have a really hard time listening to God without it." We all face this reality - when our lives are filled with noise, we feel that we are never alone with God. It certainly is hard to sense God's presence and listen to God's voice with children crying in the background.
But the core of the discipline of silence is quietness of heart. It is choosing to be still at the Lord's feet, as Mary did. Picture your heart as a lake. How does the surface appear to you? Is the water in constant motion, with choppy waves sloshing about as the winds of circumstance whip the water first this way and then that? Or is the water calm, still, and quiet? It is the calm lake that brilliantly reflects a sunrise like a mirror. Similarly, a heart that is still before God reflects his glory. Silence is choosing to be still before God.
Depending on the ages of your children times of solitude may already be a natural part of your day when your kids take naps or go to school. But solitude as a spiritual discipline is more than being physically alone. Solitude, like silence, is a matter of the heart. It is a purposeful withdrawal from the company of others in which we recognize that we are not truly alone but in the presence of an Almighty God.