In this post, Patricia Wilson, author of Quiet Spaces: Prayer Interludes for Women, writes candidly about the things that make it hard for women to find space for quiet time with God. She shares suggestions for managing our natural tendencies for nurturing, caregiving, and guilt.
I keep trying to have a quiet moment or two, just a small quiet space to myself, a brief pause from the busyness of my day to focus my mind on God. I don’t think I’m asking for a lot, and considering that I am now retired (theoretically, at least), finding a moment or two shouldn’t be such a big deal.
But it is! As I struggle against the interminable interruptions of phone calls, drop-in friends, a husband wanting to chat, a dog insisting that a trip outside is urgent, the beep of the dryer announcing the end of the cycle and the beginning of wrinkled clothing, the clock edging towards supper preparation time, the chime that tells me there’s a new email or a new voicemail, the siren call of the coffee pot and the cookie jar, and the myriad of other things that lay claim to my time and attention, it seems that even a moment or two of a quiet space is an impossible dream in my life.
If you add to my list the things that most women I know are facing: children, grandchildren, ailing parents, car pools, school meetings, not to mention the hundred and one things that comprise a working woman’s day, I am amazed that we dare to think that something like a quiet space is even remotely possible.
In my book Quiet Spaces: Prayer Interludes for Busy Women, I introduced the idea claiming quiet space between all the things that we do in our lives. For example, there is a quiet space in our waiting in the doctor’s office, or standing in line at the grocery store, or stopped in a traffic jam. A quiet space can appear as you wait for a meeting to start or are on hold on a telephone line.
MyQuietSpaces.org encourages and supports you in finding your own quiet space–a corner of your home, a favourite park bench, an empty office down the hall, or a walk by the water. But, it now occurs to me that perhaps you, like me, are having trouble making those quiet spaces work–both the moments between meetings or the special place you have chosen. Like so many things, the concept is fine, but the reality is sometimes another thing altogether. Life gets in the way.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, for many women, it is in our genetics to make ourselves available to others and when we don’t, we feel guilty. I know that there is a part of me that feels guilty if I try to take some time just for me.
One of the MyQuietSpaces.org monthly themes is “Cultivating Sabbath Rest” with Dana Trent. I’m beginning to realize that the concept of sabbath beyond the traditional Sunday morning is something that we can incorporate into our lives. Sabbath is a time of being apart, setting aside things that clutter our minds, taking time to experience God. It’s not just Sunday, but can be other times, too.
My minister has a note on her email that says she takes a Sabbath from email Friday through Sunday. She provides a phone number for emergencies, of course, but she also makes it clear that this is a time when she has chosen not to deal with the myriad of emails she receives. I will admit to being shocked when I first saw this. Not answer emails! Not even read them! For three days!
I recognize that she is onto something. By telling everyone that this was her uninterrupted time from her in-box, she was free to have that time for her own needs.
Perhaps the answer to our interrupted lives to to begin telling people when we will not be available. Instead of hoping they won’t bother us, we can be much more proactive in making it clear that we will not be interrupted. Let the phone ring. Close the door. Don’t answer the doorbell. Ignore the beep from the dryer. Let the dishes wait until later… the list goes on.
As we begin to do this, we must IGNORE THE GUILT! Remind yourself that even Jesus went away by himself in the desert, into the hills, across the lake, onto the boat. We need our quiet spaces. They are what breathes life into our spirits and bring peace to our hearts.