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To submit a question for James, Richella, and Nate to consider discussing on Friends in Formation, email [email protected]​renovare.​org.

Show Notes

In this episode, Richella, Nate, and James take listener questions on:

  1. Why do some people find the practice of silence and solitude so hard?
  2. How can you observe Sabbath well when you have little kids?
  3. How do I handle my adult children walking away from church?

Why do some people find the practice of silence and solitude so hard, and not letting the distractions of the day interrupt a time of listening for God’s voice?

Sometimes we avoid silence because we’re afraid of what we might hear, of what God might want to say to us. We have to remember that God’s voice is always loving and drawing, that he wants to interact with us; his is not the voice of a disappointed deity or a disapproving father. It can also be excruciating to move from activity to quiet, so try upping the average – start with two minutes, then four. As time goes on, you’ll find yourself not wanting it to end. Being in silence can be terrifying because we will have to deal with reality, and staying noisy works really well at keeping us from dealing with reality and whatever we find there – our heart and emotions. Silence and solitude are foundational disciplines that help us grow in depth. It’s good to admit that it can be frightening to encounter ourselves, without the distractions of something more comforting or comfortable. As Henry Nouwen says, In solitude, we get rid of the scaffolding.” We come to terms with ourselves, our frailty, our finiteness. This is not about me and Jesus doing my thing, but about intimacy with God that ultimately leads to connection with others and growth in my ability and capacity to love others well. A really practical idea from A Spiritual Formation Workbook is to take an hour to be with God; make no demands and have no expectations. 

In seeking and walking out apprenticeship, I’ve found it difficult to Sabbath well. How can you observe Sabbath well when you have little kids?

Sabbath-keeping is easy to think of as an individual pursuit, but it’s actually a community pursuit. How does one person keep Sabbath when there are other things that need to be done? In a lot of ways it is the forgotten commandment. It’s an American virtue to let it go. And there’s a balance of legalism and grace. You can think about it as an agenda-free day, or not doing any purposeful work. No lists, and being open to what God might have for me in that day. You can do that with kids, because they already know how to rest, to play, to be. So you can kick the leaves on the street with your children, but don’t clean them up. Dallas Willard, in his book Life Without Lack, talks about how to spend a day with Jesus. It starts with preparation – for that attitudinal change, for not doing anything valuable. It’s about thinking about what we can do that will not have structure or an agenda. You have to plan to not plan. With children, give yourself lots of grace. Explain to them why you want to take a Sabbath in a way that they will understand – nothing fancy today, simple meals, talking to God. Little kids can really get into God, that God cares for them, his love and security.

Going back to a previous conversation regarding the church, how do I handle my adult children walking away from church? 

It’s humbling to consider that our children might turn away from what we rear them in. This is a deeply heartfelt issue. What are we doing with our churches that are making young adults not want to be a part of them. We should listen to these young folks who are leaving in droves, listen instead of trying to coerce or manipulate or entertain. We need to encourage them to work with what they do believe and build from there. It’s beautiful to see when parents can sympathetically and sensitively understand. Keep talking, asking questions in an interested way, and tend to your own spirit, that you are keeping yourself close to God so that you are listening for what God might want you to say to your child. And remember, if someone has walked away from Jesus, it doesn’t mean Jesus has walked away from them. They are still God’s beloved child. Keep the lines of communication open. Let God woo your child; trust your children to God. Play the long game – people grow and people change, and we do our best to love and listen. James Fowler, in Stages of Faith, describes how what people can interpret as resistance is actually entering a deeper stage; walking away from something but being on the cusp of finding something even bigger. The future of the church will involve people who went through times of tough wrestling, of not being content with inherited faith. Know that there are also good people seeking to follow Jesus that have absolutely no use for the church, and that’s also significant. We see young adults who are reinvigorating churches, bringing a lot of energy and ideas and challenge. It’s a shame if they feel they’re not being heard or empowered. It’s worthy to reflect on what we are actually offering people rather than assuming that there’s something wrong with them. 

This is a topic we’ll need to come back to, because we are going through this massive deconstruction going on in the church, in the context of a rapidly changing church in a rapidly changing world culture. 

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