I have always enjoyed fishing. Now, with my children grown and my grandchildren old enough to come with me, I go fishing as often as I can get away. Mostly we just sit in the boat for hours and catch nothing. But those hours of quiet are valuable for thinking. I have pondered how the first disciples Jesus called were fishermen, and how they were obedient when Jesus said, “Leave your nets and come, follow me.” And how after the crucifixion the disciples, in their discouragement, returned to the solitude of their fishing boats.
Fishing, like prayer, can bring peace of heart and give time for personal reflection. Like prayer, it can be disheartening – sometimes the catch will be small, or there will be nothing but a few bites. Both fishing and prayer require patience and humility, because with both, you ultimately depend on an answer from outside yourself.
A conversation involves both talking and listening, and as we all know, real listening requires us to become quiet first. What God wants to tell us is of greater importance than what we want to tell him.
As much as the physical body requires rest and sleep in order to function properly, so our inner life requires regular times of quiet in which the soul can be strengthened again: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”
This is true for everybody, but “a time to keep silence” may be most important for people who are actively involved in a cause or service. They will find that strength for their work comes first from the inner springs of their personal spiritual life, and that inner quiet is essential to balancing the busyness of their days.
Life seems like a long string of events, planned or unplanned, joyful or sorrowful. As significant as each one appears to be when we stand in its midst, it can often be a distraction that draws our attention away from the larger picture. If we are to communicate with God, we must first become inwardly quiet, detached from our roving thoughts, our worries and fears for tomorrow.
Just as life demands both thought and action, so there must also be a balance between solitude and community. Outward silence is easily achieved when one is alone, though mind and heart may still be busy; but in true solitude one can often come before God in a way not possible when there is even one other person present.
Many people, disenchanted with institutional religion, go outdoors into nature to satisfy their spiritual needs. There is great inner strength given through the beauty of unspoiled creation. As John Michael Talbot writes, “All creation bears the traces of its creator and will lead the spiritually sensitive seeker back to God.”
This article is an excerpt from Cries from the Heart.