Meet Your Silent Companions
“He lived with trees, with the bush wet with shining raindrops, with the burning bush of autumn, with the lone wild duck riding a north wind and crying down on a line north to south, the faces of open sky and weather, the ax which is an individual one-man instrument, these he had for companions, books, friends, talkers, chums of his endless changing soliloquies.”
This is how Carl Sandburg described the youth of one of the greatest men in history, Abraham Lincoln.
Over Thanksgiving break, I started reading the first volume of Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln biography. I thought it would be an excellent read for the national holiday—and it does not disappoint!
Sandburg noted that there were days when young Lincoln conversed only at breakfast and supper, with family. The rest of the time, he was alone with his tools, his books and his thoughts.
“And so he grew,” Sandburg wrote. “Silence found him; he met silence. In the making of him as he was, the element of silence was immense.”
One of Lincoln’s predecessors, John Adams, wrote this to his son Charles, who was more inclined to socialize than to study: “You have in your nature a sociability, Charles, which is amiable, but may mislead you. A scholar is always made alone. Studies can only be pursued to good purpose by yourself. Don’t let companions then, nor your amusements, take up too much of your time.”
“If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts,” essayist William Deresiewicz told West Point cadets in 2009. “You don’t even have privacy, the opportunity simply to be physically alone, never mind solitude, the ability to be alone with your thoughts. And yet I submit to you that solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership.”
You need silent time.
Balance is key, of course. True Christians fellowship often with one another (Malachi 3:16), and must not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:24-25), and iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). We need support, encouragement and admonition from one another!
But we also need plenty of time alone with our silent companions.
Not just silence for concentration on books and on our own thoughts, but silence for concentration, most of all, on God the Father and Christ the Son.
The Prophet Jeremiah had lots of time alone—with his thoughts. “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 119:16). He meditated on God’s law all day (verse 97). The Apostle Paul admonished youthful Timothy to “give attendance to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13). During His earthly ministry, Jesus rose well before daybreak and went to a private place to speak to God in prayer (Mark 1:35). Jesus Christ, the most unselfish, socially outgoing man ever, was also a close friend of silence and seclusion. Because during that time, He was focusing not on Himself and His thoughts, but on His Father.
What we do alone with our thoughts, our prayers and our studies is one of the most important necessities of true Christian leadership.
Deresiewicz said that without the solitude of America’s Founding Fathers, there would be no America. Without the solitude of Abraham, David, Jeremiah, the other prophets of old, the apostles of the New Testament, and Jesus Christ, there would be no Church of the living God! You need more silence in your life, time spent with your silent companions, God and Christ.
Quiet time alone in our thoughts—directed toward the Father and Son—is something you have to learn. Learn to be alone with God, His truth, and your own thoughts and meditations about those precepts and instructions.
You have the time, but you will have to exert discipline to use it in this way. Delete the app, give up the activity, do what you need to so that you can devote that time, not to selfish reading or thinking, but to study the mind of God diligently, like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11), and to pray effective, earnest prayers (James 5:16). Spend time getting to know—to really know—your silent companions.