I was in a small town in Col­orado a few years ago — a place with only one stop­light and a pop­u­la­tion of around 2,000 peo­ple. Actu­al­ly, I was a few miles out­side the town, on the edge of a moun­tain where there were few hous­es, no bright lights, and — at 9000 feet above sea lev­el — remark­ably thin air. 

The first night of the vis­it I was out­side with our host and he sug­gest­ed I look up. The only way to describe what I saw is that it was awe-inspir­ing. It almost took my breath away. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and — being in the coun­try­side away from the lights of civ­i­liza­tion — there were tens of thou­sands of stars vis­i­ble. I could see the out­line of the Milky Way. Even the ground seemed to be lit by the light of the stars alone. You don’t see that in Atlanta,” said my host. He was right. 

In Atlanta I can per­ceive only a frac­tion of the stars I saw that night. Even still, as I leave the house in the ear­ly morn­ing I often look up at the sky and thank God for show­ing off.” But the mag­ni­tude of dif­fer­ence in the Col­orado night sky is impos­si­ble to describe. 

Back home one morn­ing, as I got into my truck at 5:30am, I looked at the stars and real­ized that I was only see­ing a frac­tion of real­i­ty. There are more stars there than I can see or even imag­ine. The lights of my sub­di­vi­sion, the city of Gainesville, and even dis­tant Atlanta over­pow­er the light of the stars. But the real­i­ty is still the real­i­ty. The stars haven’t moved or gone away. I just can’t see them because of the dis­trac­tion cre­at­ed by oth­er lights. 

I have to go to a dif­fer­ent place to see clearly. 

Hear­ing the voice of God is a lot like that. Just as the lights of the city keep me from see­ing all of the stars that are actu­al­ly there, the noise around me — and in me — keeps me from hear­ing God as he whis­pers his per­son­al mes­sage to me con­tin­u­al­ly. And just as mov­ing into the sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed area of Col­orado enables me to see stars I didn’t real­ize exist­ed, so mov­ing into soli­tude (sim­ply being by myself) and silence allows me to be in a posi­tion to hear God speak. 

I have to look up to see the stars. But some­times I have to look in to detect the pres­ence of God. The stars take my breath away. But the Spir­it of the God who cre­at­ed each one of those stars changes my life as I allow Him to whis­per to me in soli­tude and silence. 

Soli­tude was prac­ticed by Jesus, who often left his dis­ci­ples to go to be alone with His Father. It has been prac­ticed and proven by His fol­low­ers through the centuries. 

Just as men and women have looked to the stars for a glimpse of the work of the Cre­ator, I move to soli­tude to hear His gen­tle whis­per to me.

The heav­ens declare the glo­ry of God;
the skies pro­claim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they dis­play knowl­edge.
There is no speech or lan­guage where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”
(Psalm 19:1 – 4a; NIV Ital­ics added)

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