Back in the first few centuries of Christendom, thousands of Egyptian followers of Jesus fled the big cities to live in the silence and solitude of the desert. They became known as the “Desert Fathers and Mothers” who gained great influence in all parts of the Church.
What was their point? It was two-fold, the first one was simply to escape the reality of becoming a martyr. But the second reason was something akin to our present situation. They found it increasingly hard to connect with God on a daily basis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of city-life! Little did they know that our present pace of life so much surpasses what they felt was an impossible scenario for their spiritual development!
What should, or can we do about that? Should we also abandon our cities and escape to more quiet and rural areas? From a strategic viewpoint that does not make sense, since it is in the cities we meet the lost, the poor, the broken, and the foreigner we want to reach for God’s Kingdom. On the other hand, our current life-style will pull us more and more away from the necessary solitude needed to enter into a deeper relationship with God.
God contends for our hearts, and he made it quite clear that he wants them completely, or not at all. And if we do not succeed in creating a rhythm that makes room for time with him, then he may even put a few speed bumps on our pathway to get our attention.
Dallas Willard once said that the key to spiritual maturity is to "ruthlessly eliminate hurry" from your life. Often the greatest challenges that come our way are holy brakes that silently, but surely, slow us to a more whole and considered existence.
My good friend Charles Bello has some good advice for us in his book “Prayer As A Place”, called the 3 “P”s:
Pause - Pray - Play
Pause: Find sabbatical rhythm and find a way to rest mentally, emotionally and physically. A lack in any of these areas will lead to burn-out, and are the main reason why over 70% of Christian leaders do not finish well (Robert Clinton).
“Sabbath means quit. Stop. Take a break. Cool it. The word itself has nothing devout or holy in it. It is a word about time, denoting our nonuse of it - what we usually call wasting time.” Eugene Peterson.
Pray: Break though the barrier of your past experiences and explore different avenues of prayer, such as meditation, the examen, centering prayer, contemplative prayer, and praying God’s Word (lectio divina).
Play: Connecting what is fun with spirituality. What is it that makes you come alive? What is it that you don’t have to do, but when you do it you enjoy it, and you are refreshed by doing it. (Hobbies, gardening, fishing, walking, sports, books, music, traveling…)
If we are honest we will admit to the fact that we might need some help finding that rhythm. Hearing about it, or even being inspired by it usually does not last for more than a few days at best. Look for a "soul companion" to help you on your journey.